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Title: Pic the Weapon-Maker
Author: George Langford, - To be updated
Language: English
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PIC THE WEAPON-MAKER



[Illustration: THE JOURNEY THROUGH CENTRAL FRANCE]



                                   PIC
                            THE WEAPON-MAKER

                                   BY
                             GEORGE LANGFORD

                             INTRODUCTION BY
                         HENRY FAIRFIELD OSBORN

                        ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR

                             [Illustration]

                           BONI AND LIVERIGHT
                           PUBLISHERS NEW YORK

                           COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
                         BONI & LIVERIGHT, INC.

                _Printed in the United States of America_



                                   To
                        My Wife and Collaborator
                         SYDNEY HOLMES LANGFORD



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    THE JOURNEY THROUGH CENTRAL FRANCE                       _Frontispiece_

                                                                      PAGE

    THE ARRIVAL OF THE MAMMOTH                                           3

    “UGH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE?”                                    26

    “WHY DO YOU BEAT THOSE ROCKS TOGETHER?” THE MAMMOTH INQUIRED        37

    GRUN WAUGH SPRANG SNARLING TO HIS FEET                              53

    THE CAVE LION TOOK ONE LOOK—AND WAITED TO SEE NO MORE               64

    PIC AT SHA PELL                                                     74

    THE MEETING WITH THE SEINE FLINT WORKERS                           104

    “STAND BACK! FOR YOUR LIVES, STAND BACK!”                          129

    WITH A HOARSE CRY PIC SPRANG TO HIS FEET                           145

    HAIRI AND THE CAVE LEOPARD                                         211

    THE TIME CAME WHEN WULLI FAILED TO RESPOND                         224

    PIC DISCOVERS THE USE OF THE BONE TOOL                             240

    PLUCKED FROM ITS MOTHER’S ARMS AND WHIRLED ALOFT                   268



INTRODUCTION


It has been the tendency of certain anthropologists, of most popular
writers, and of most artists in Europe and America to represent the men
of the Old Stone Age as scarcely raised above the level of the brutes.
I have protested against this point of view on what I believe to be
very good grounds, namely, that modern man could not have ascended from
a group of brutes. There must have been from the very first, along the
various lines of human ascent, a premium on the qualities of mind, on the
rudiments of human character, and on the refined tendencies of the best
of men as we know them to-day. Such a sprinkling of fine characteristics
is observed by travelers who study the most primitive races of mankind
with a sympathetic attitude of mind; many are discovered among the
Malays, despite their head-hunting propensities, and delightful traits
of character are found among the Polynesians, despite their occasional
cannibalism.

It is in this sympathetic also appreciative state of mind that the author
of the present work approaches his subject, the Mousterians, a very
ancient and primitive branch of the human race. The environment in which
these people lived was certainly very crude and the conditions were
very hard, nevertheless it is reasonable to presume that they possessed
many desirable although rudimentary qualities of mind and character. The
present author may idealize these primitive men as James Fenimore Cooper
idealized the Indians, but I believe he would be nearer the truth than if
he brutalized them.

If it is clearly understood that the work of Mr. Langford is an
interpretation of prehistoric human nature, an interpretation based on a
certain class of facts, a working hypothesis as to the qualities of the
Mousterian people which may be contrasted with other working hypotheses
and developed with the progress of discovery, then this work is well
worth while and may be read and enjoyed in the same way that we enjoy the
painted restorations of these people, of their life and times.

                                                  HENRY FAIRFIELD OSBORN.

_New York, February 7, 1920._



FOREWORD


Some thirty or forty thousand years ago western Europe was inhabited
by a race of human beings now extinct, the Mousterians who differed so
much from modern men that they are classed as a distinct species. They
were cave-dwellers and flint-workers, living amid hordes of prehistoric
beasts; the Hairy Mammoth Elephant, Woolly Rhinoceros, Cave Lion, Cave
Bear, Hyena and many others.

The Mousterians were the last of the ancient Neanderthal race whose
advent in Europe may have dated to two-hundred thousand years or more
B.C. It is my interest in them that I seek to share intimately with my
patient readers and my endeavor has been to restore in these pages the
men and animal characters of those prehistoric days. Their activities
and the circumstances surrounding them are inspired by the following
discoveries, now of historic and scientific record:

_Mousterian Civilization._—First recognized in 1863 near Le Moustier,
Dordogne Dep’t, southwestern France. Beneath caves in the cliffs,
rudely fashioned flints of distinctive pattern lay buried with bones of
the Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros and other prehistoric animals. Similar
discoveries were made later in the Seine, Somme and Thames River Valleys
and many other localities in western Europe.

_The Neanderthal Man._—Fossil skeleton accidentally discovered in
1856 in a grotto near the River Düssel, Westphalia, western Germany.
The skull-cap with its low forehead and massive eye-ridges, caused a
sensation in Europe, it being the first evidence that a primitive species
of human being preceded modern Man in western Europe.

_The Boy of Le Moustier._—Skeleton unearthed in 1908 near one of the
Moustier caves; a young man. The low forehead, massive eye-ridges
and chinless jaw were primitive features, known by this time as
characteristics of the Neanderthal race. The skeleton lay amid remains of
prehistoric animals with head resting upon a pile of flint-flakes. A fine
flint hand-ax was near the right hand.

_The Man of La Chapelle-aux-Saintes._—Complete skeleton of an
aged man found buried in 1908 in a grotto near the village of La
Chapelle-aux-Saintes, Correze Dept., France. This fine skeleton showed
conclusively that the Mousterian differed from modern Man in almost
every bone of his body. This discovery is considered as an intentional
burial—most ancient record of man’s care for his dead and recognition
of an after life. The body lay amid Mousterian flints and bones of
prehistoric animals.

_The Maid of La Ferrassie._—Part of one skeleton—a female—exhumed from
a rock-shelter near Le Moustier in 1909 and another in 1910. Both were
Mousterians and not to be confused with other discoveries of less ancient
people of the Old Stone Age.

_Prehistoric Animals._—Remains of the Hairy Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros,
Cave Lion, Cave Bear, Hyena, Irish Elk, Long-horned Ox, Bison, Reindeer
and a host of others have been and are yet frequently discovered in
association with Mousterian flint and skeleton relics. Of these brutes,
none were more imposing, none more remarkable than the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros. Friends? Why, of course. Who can deny it and who would
begrudge them their fun—while it lasted?

It is my earnest endeavor to portray intimately the prehistoric life of
western Europe as it was during the “Mousterian” Period of 50000-25000
B.C. Mankind’s primitive pioneers cannot fail to win the respect of
those who choose to understand them. My characters—men and beasts—were
real individuals; their activities, my free translation of the evidence
presented by stone relics and fossil bones. Such evidence collected by
the world’s leading anthropologists, is ably summarized in Prof. Henry
Fairfield Osborn’s immortal work, “Men of the Old Stone Age” which has
been of material aid to me in the writing of this book.

                                                         GEORGE LANGFORD.

_Joliet, Illinois, March 1, 1920._



PIC THE WEAPON-MAKER



I


The cold weight of bitter glacial winter lay heavy upon the Dordogne
region of southwestern France. Grass and sedge tuft were hidden beneath a
mantle of ermine snow. The last withered oak and sycamore leaves had long
since fluttered to the ground and only bare branches were left pointing
skyward like dead fingers. The bushes stuck straight up like bundles of
stiff rods. No sounds could be heard except faint whisperings of sleet
blown over the snow-crust and of rending creaking frost gnawing into
every hole and crevice.

Bison, moose, stag, ox and every other hoofed and horned beast of meadow,
mountain and glade were assembled near the base of the southern slope
of a long high ridge bristling with outcropping limestone crags and
pinnacles. Every pair of horns and eyes was directed upward and every
heart beat fast with great awe and fear.

For a monstrous creature was lumbering down the slope toward them,
plowing its way irresistibly through the snow-packs like an avalanche
launched from the heights—a strange beast of another world descending as
it were from the sky. Its huge head crowned with peaked forepart, nigh
equalled in bulk the Bison’s body. A ponderous nose-lip dangled from its
face, writhing python-like, between two long cream-colored tusks which
swept downward then outward, then upward and forward to their polished
tips in three graceful, twisting curves. And yet the colossal head was
but a fragment compared with the vast body behind it. Both were thatched
with jumbled masses of shaggy hair fluffed and tossed about by the breeze
like tasseled plumes. The massive hulk was borne along upon four hairy
pillar legs, each rivalling in girth the wrist of a stout oak which stood
in the giant’s path, thrust upward through the snow like a great gnarled
fist. The lowermost branch rising some twelve feet above the ground,
barely cleared the shaggy head-peak as it passed beneath. Such was the
Hairy Mammoth, monarch of the bleak northern wastes and largest of all
creatures ranging the length and breadth of Europe.

[Illustration: THE ARRIVAL OF THE MAMMOTH]

As his eyes fell upon the formidable hedge of bristling horns, he
momentarily slackened his pace and took stock of the seemingly
overwhelming odds upon which he was advancing. Fight? Yes and no. The
Mammoth well knew the full measure of his own gigantic strength and how
to make good use of it when occasion demanded; but there are always more
ways than one to accomplish desired results—so the Mammoth reasoned—and
he was a creature of far from low intelligence.

Crunch, crunch, his ponderous feet rose and fell amid the flying
snow-clods as he bore down upon the group of horned animals, calmly and
deliberately as though without fear or thought of hostile purpose.

Another and smaller individual trailed in the giant’s wake. Like the
latter, its head and body were buried in masses of tangled hair, so thick
and matted that the creature resembled a small haystack supported by four
short peg-legs, which latter were barely visible beneath the mass. But
none heeded this the smaller of the pair. All eyes were centered upon the
shaggy giant with the snake-like trunk and curling tusks.

The latter was only ten paces distant when suddenly two of the horned
heads detached themselves from their fellows as their owners sprang
forward to meet him. One of them was a thick-set individual almost hidden
beneath a flowing hair-mantle and bearing two hook-like horns plastered
across his brow; the other a more slender animal with short hair and long
scraggly antlers. They were the Musk Ox and Reindeer, migrants from the
northern ranges.

“The Mammoth!” they cried joyfully. “Hail Hairi, lord of the Tundr! Does
the Storm Wind drive the mightiest of the grass-eaters before it as it
does us more humble folk?”

The Mammoth, who had halted momentarily with trunk and tasks thrown into
a defensive posture, now emitted an astonished bellow. His ears flapped
violently and his trunk waved in joyful recognition.

“Hail, old comrades! Peace be with you and yours,” he replied. “Good
indeed it is to see once more two of the Northland’s best and bravest.
The Storm Wind? Aye. The Mammoth finds no favor there. But it is not from
it that I flee, nor snow nor the frost which thickens the waters and
makes all trees look like dead sticks. It is because of the ice-mountains
that have sealed every drinking hole and food patch. I must eat and drink
to live and as Death is my last choice, I made haste to seek this land of
plenty—and friends.”

As he concluded, his gaze shifted inquiringly from the Musk Ox and
Reindeer to their associates. Sunshine by the cubic yard now exuded
from every pore of the huge body—ten-hundred weight of concentrated
benevolence and good will. His two friends of the tundras gazed
apprehensively at their horned associates, then at the shaggy colossus.
In the latter’s beaming features and breezy manner was no vestige of the
caution and timidity which might have been expected of him in a situation
fraught with such grave uncertainties; but he had staked all on his sound
judgment of animal nature and had already determined how the present
occasion should be dealt with.

“Comrades,” he began in a deep voice. “Fate was kind to reunite me with
two life-long friends and with their friends all gathered together to do
me honor. Words fail me; but I am mightily pleased.”

He paused, gazing benignly upon the serried host. Every horned head
lifted; every pair of eyes looked up in astonishment. Even the small
haystack behind the Mammoth raised its head in amazement at the latter’s
eloquent outburst, then its attention shifted to the array of hoofed and
horned animals.

“Moo Hooes!” it grunted and without another word, turned away and began
rooting about in the snow. It may be inferred that the creature was a pig
but although possessing piggy eyes and ears, its nose bore a long glossy
horn pointing forward and upward, which in itself was most remarkable and
unswinelike. Moo Hoo, by the way, was a name for any hoofed and horned
animal. It might be complimentary or otherwise, depending on the way one
said it. The small haystack’s way of saying, was far from complimentary.

For a few moments, all was still. The Mammoth stood immobile and
expectant—a mountain of majestic grandeur. A slim figure emerged from the
throng of horned animals and faced him. It was the Red Deer or Stag.

“Your arrival is—I make bold to say—a surprise to us,” he said timidly.
“We, too, are pleased to meet the mighty Mammoth; but caution is our
watchword and we look upon all strangers as intruders. We are in the
midst of an important meeting which may be proceeded with after your
departure. And now what more before we are deprived of your august
presence?”

The great Elephant’s gorge began to rise. This was a new and decidedly
unpleasant idea—his being left out of any animal doings. His was a
sociable nature, ever eager to meet new faces and never forgetting
the old ones—you may be sure of that. With an effort he kept back the
storm-clouds and continued to bathe all present in the sunshine of his
genial personality.

“But my journey’s end is reached,” he remarked cheerily. “Meeting? You
see I am just in time; and here I stay to make your better acquaintance.”

The hoofed and horned animals inclined their ears forward to catch every
word. This was an unheard-of thing; an elephant trying to enter their
charmed circle. They studied his curling tusks and stumpy feet with the
greatest care, then shook their heads.

“So you wish to join our herd?” the Stag demanded. “First, you must
qualify. Every new member must have hoofs and horns. They are quite
important; in fact, necessary.”

“Of course; and so now I may consider myself one of you?”

“Pr-r-op! Not so fast, if you please. Things must follow in their proper
order. I see no horns. You do not seem to have brought them with you.
Possibly you have shed them for the cold weather.”

“Indeed, no. Here they are almost touching the end of your nose,” and
Hairi raised his trunk on high so that his tusks might show to the best
advantage.

“Horns?” grunted the Moose; “but they grow from your mouth. Odd; most
peculiar, I say.”

“Oomp, oomp; most peculiar.” The Mammoth’s tone and manner now reeked
with biting sarcasm. “So you think that my horns should grow from
somewhere else; out of my back perhaps or possibly from my heels like
lark’s spurs. What would you suggest? I am willing to please anybody
within reason.”

The Moose began to feel ridiculous. His pride was hurt. “But they should
grow up, not down,” he protested sullenly.

“Indeed! What do the rest of you think about it?” demanded the shaggy
giant as he glanced along the rows of curious faces. “Up or down; down
or up? Which is proper? My horns grow down then up again, so I am right,
either way. But I mean to be reasonable and listen. Can anybody answer?”

None appeared to have enough wits left to give an answer. The Mammoth
gazed blandly at the sea of upturned faces before him and resumed:

“Now that everybody is satisfied, I will take my proper place among you.
Next comes the choice of my assistant. What is it now, old Bramble-head?”
he bellowed at the Moose who showed symptoms of wishing to start an
argument. “Would you expect me to manage your affairs alone? I need help.
Who will dispute that?”

He looked so huge, stern and overpowering, that several high-strung
spirits who were pawing the ground and gathering courage to protest,
decided to wait. All stood at attention. The Mammoth paused for a moment
to impress them with the importance of what he was about to say.

“My friends,” he began in low deep tones, which grew louder and more
dramatic as he proceeded. “Fellow Moo Hooes; People with the split feet;
I will now choose as my chief helper, the most famous warrior in all
Tundr. His skill, courage and other noble qualities have won the esteem
of every creature that creeps or runs. His strength——”

“But who is he? Tell us,” cried a score of impatient voices.

The huge Elephant raised his trunk aloft. “Owk, owk; see all,” he
thundered. “Look upon the chosen one, come in all his glory to help me
guard your future and preserve the peace! Behold my friend, adviser and
fellow-worker, the Woolly Rhinoceros!”

All eyes were now turned upon the small haystack which until this moment
had not shown the slightest interest in what was going on. The Mammoth
held the center of the stage and meanwhile the Rhinoceros was entirely
ignored. His huge companion’s stirring eloquence rumbled like thunder
above him, a dull flow of meaningless words; then suddenly his own name
rang out loud and clear, followed by death-like silence.

He raised his head from the grass-tufts which had hitherto claimed his
attention and blinked at the herd of animals as though observing them
for the first time; then with slow and measured steps he advanced to the
Mammoth’s side and looked up at him inquiringly. This was the signal
for a great buzz of excitement which swept over the vast assemblage
like a rustling breeze. A heavy-set individual with flaring nostrils and
bloodshot eyes suddenly stepped forward. It was the Bison.

“May the rocks fall upon his head,” he roared in great wrath. “One is
enough to swallow; two, more than we can chew. Let this Tundr-pig be cast
out in the snow.”

The Mammoth turned quickly to his companion. “There, Wulli, did you hear
what he said? It is high time you asserted yourself.”

Wulli’s eyes glistened. He glared savagely at the Bison. The latter
caught sight of the sharp horn poised threateningly on the Rhino’s nose.
He trembled and looked at the ground.

“I spoke the name of my future helper,” the Mammoth bellowed. “Do you all
agree? If not, why not?”

“Your friend is not acceptable,” snorted the Bison, taking fresh courage
at the interruption. “His horns are not the same size and they grow out
of his nose.”

“Horns?” The Mammoth bent forward and studied Wulli’s face with wondering
interest; “How remarkable! I thought he had only one, but there is
another—a little horn trying to hide behind the big one. Hold your head
down Wulli so that all can see. Two horns; just the right number—no
more, no less.”

The Rhinoceros bowed his head, too confused to express the resentment
that raged within his breast. What the Mammoth had said was true enough.
Horn Number Two was a small affair—no more than a knob—but its silent
eloquence was convincing. All gazed upon it wonderingly; all but the
Moose and Bison who appeared to have taken a sudden and strong dislike to
their new champions.

“Suppose they are horns,” the Bison sniffed. “They grow too queerly to
please me. As for his feet; look at them. Do any but turtles have feet
like those?”

“But he has horns and two of them,” the Mammoth insisted. “You said so
and all can see that you spoke the truth. And now, Moo Hoo with the loud
voice, be warned. Use well-chosen words when you speak of the Rhinoceros.
He fights silently, but one thrust is usually enough; and if he needs
help, I stand beside him.”

No answer. The Mammoth gazed about him with the air of one whose manner
of argument is beyond dispute.

“Good; we have heard all that is to be said. The Woolly Rhinoceros can
consider himself a full-fledged Moo Hoo from nose to tail. With his help,
I intend to preserve order and keep the peace. From now on, quarrelsome
and other objectionable characters will be severely dealt with.” He
glanced meaningly at the Moose and Bison.

The two trouble-makers thus designated, put their heads together for a
moment; then the Bison turned and faced the Mammoth. His eyes sparkled as
with the thought of sweet revenge soon to be meted out to his detested
rivals.

“So say all of us,” he bawled loudly: “Objectionable characters must be
punished. Is it not so?”

He glanced from one face to another amid low murmurs of approval. The
Mammoth hesitated before this sudden outburst. In the other’s sneering
manner, he sensed mischief directed against the Rhinoceros and himself.

“Quite so,” he cautiously admitted. “To what or whom do you refer? It
will be duly considered by one and all of us.”

“We demand action, not mere words,” the Bison roared. “Our leaders and
fighters must play the part of their own choosing. I insist that the
Mammoth and Rhinoceros do their duty or be cast out into the snow as
cowards and braggarts.”

On hearing himself thus fiercely arraigned, Wulli lurched forward and
squealed angrily:

“What duty? Oo-wee! do not keep me waiting. Must our talking be done with
crossed horns?”

The Bison made haste to respond and thus avoid a clash. “We are
surrounded by blood-thirsty beasts,” he bellowed. “One among them is the
dread of all grass-eaters. I demand that the Mammoth and Rhinoceros visit
the great Rock and drive him from his den.”

Wulli’s jaws set themselves tightly together. He looked straight into the
other’s eyes without winking. “And this beast; who is he? His name?”

As if in reply, a faint rumble as of distant thunder was borne from the
opposite heights far across the valley—a deep bass roar followed by a
hoarse throaty cry:

“Gr-rr-r-un-nn-n Wau-au-gh-h!”

Every hoofed and horned animal trembled at the sound. The Bison was the
first to recover his composure. He leered vengefully at the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros:

“The Cave Lion himself has spoken. There sounds his challenge. Let our
new-found champions go forth and drive him from his den.”



II


The Valley of the Vézère was a storm-shelter, a haven of refuge for all
animals. Only since the last full moon, had a message come telling of
tremendous climatic changes going on in the northern world. A strange
piercing chill was creeping slowly southward by way of the Baltic Valley.
It brought news of the advancing ice-fields and of bitter winter soon to
come. To everything through whose veins ran warm life-blood, it whispered:

“Make way for the Storm Wind, all ye who run, swim or fly. To the Vézère,
ye creatures of mountain, forest and plain. Seek shelter where even the
storm wrath may not enter. Woe to ye who neither hear nor heed!”

But all heard and heeded and hastened southward while behind them, across
hill and dale, over forest and meadow, colossal mountains of ice glided
irresistibly onward. The Vézère welcomed the swarms of fugitives within
its sanctuary even as the north wind howled at its gates and all western
Europe lay prostrate beneath the shadows of the glaciers.

Wherever peaceable creatures thrive, savage beasts will always be found
preying upon them; and, sad to relate, the Vézère Valley—haven of refuge
for all animals—had its share of those who continually annoyed the true
lovers of peace. The Panther, Lynx and Wolf being the first on the
ground, found abundant food—for the easy hunting; so easy, that in time,
the fact became known throughout the world.

News travels fast among beast-folk; particularly if it is good news. The
flesh-eaters of Africa finally became interested in the glowing accounts
of opportunities awaiting them to the north and decided to have a look
for themselves.

To reach France, it was necessary for them to cross the Mediterranean Sea
or make a long journey around it. However, everything was conveniently
arranged for them to make the trip without wetting their feet and that,
too, by the shortest possible route.

As it chanced, Sicily and Italy were connected to each other and to
Africa, thus forming a land bridge over which those who chose could
enter southern Europe. The Lion, Leopard, Hyena and others were not long
in crossing. Soon they arrived in France where an unpleasant surprise
awaited them. The climate was cold and raw. Ice and snow confronted them
at every turn. Being southern animals, they found themselves unprepared
for such a change. Were it not for the hunting, every one of them would
have turned about and gone back home.

But the hunting was excellent; so they stayed. Game was far more
plentiful than reports had led them to believe. That being so, the rest
soon took care of itself. Their fur and fuzz thickened to shaggy hair
and underwool. Caves and rock-shelters gave further protection against
the cold. The newcomers finally threw off all home ties and became
full-fledged French citizens with new names: the Cave Lion, Cave Leopard
and Cave Hyena.

For a time their frequent raids on the cloven-footed animals passed
almost unnoticed. The latter had not yet learned to appreciate their
danger. Those who fell victims were too dead to tell of their experiences
while others fortunate enough to escape, thanked their lucky stars and
thought no more about it. They made no concerted effort to protect
themselves; and so, for a time, their enemies did about as they pleased.

Game was so plentiful that the cave-beasts grew careless. They threw
off the cloak of secrecy and roamed through the Vézère Valley in the
full light of day. In the heavy snow-drifts, the Moo Hooes were at
a disadvantage as compared with their enemies whose broad soft feet
enabled them to travel swiftly over the frozen crust. Seeing themselves
threatened with destruction, the grass-eaters finally gathered together
to find some way of protecting or ridding themselves of their fierce
enemies. This was the occasion of their meeting with the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros.

The Cave Lion, being the strongest and fiercest of the flesh-eaters,
was the cloven-footed animals’ most dreaded foe. Every grass-eater in
the valley had now learned to fear Grun Waugh above all creatures. As
the Bison spoke his name, Hairi and Wulli looked inquiringly at each
other. The former heaved a deep sigh and nodded gravely. The eyes of the
Rhinoceros glistened and his lips set tightly together in a thin straight
line.

“If you will, so do I,” he said to the Mammoth. “Our main task will be to
make him stand and fight. He would never dare face both of us.”

“Drive him from his den, if you cannot kill him,” the Bison interrupted.
“We do not ask more.” He suspected that Wulli was seeking an excuse to
avoid the danger.

“Where is his den?” asked the Rhinoceros. “How can we find him?”

“No trouble about that. His home is high upon the big Rock.” The Bison
nodded in the direction of a rugged promontory, the Rock of Moustier
which jutted far into the valley, almost to the Vézère River. Its bare
walls rose precipitously in limestone layers or ledges piled one upon
another, to a broad table-like summit capped with snow. Facing the
river, a steep slope composed of crumbled rock, formed the sole means of
reaching the upper level from the valley beneath.

“Grun Waugh lives mid-way to the top,” the Bison explained. “The ground
slopes up to his den. The den is his home.”

“Let us be off,” urged Wulli. “While we talk and do nothing, the Cave
Lion may leave his hole and then we will be hard put to find him.”

To this Hairi agreed after a moment’s thought, so the pair marched off
across the snow-covered meadow to the river. On reaching it, Hairi held
back for an instant, then took a deep breath and set one foot upon the
ice to test its strength. It creaked and trembled. The Mammoth retreated
a step, raised his head and looked about him. The Rhinoceros hesitated
not a moment but strode on ahead at his best gait. The air was cold,
the ice proportionately thick and so he crossed in safety. Not until
he reached the other bank and was pausing to catch his breath, did he
realize that he was alone. With a surprised snort he turned and looked
behind him.

About half-way between the two banks, Hairi was crawling along at a
snail’s pace. His eyes never left the ice on which he trod. His footsteps
rivalled the Panther’s stealthy tread. Had he been walking a tight-rope
he could not have glided onward with more infinite pains.

To the Mammoth who had a healthy horror of mire, ice or any other
support that threatened to give way beneath his weight, this was the
most terrifying part of the whole adventure. To help matters, he held
his breath and kept the fewest possible number of feet on the ice at any
one time, all of which required his undivided attention. Meanwhile the
Rhinoceros could only stand and stare, even after Hairi’s journey finally
ended in a frantic leap to solid ground with half a dozen lumbering hops
added to make sure.

“Stir yourself, Wulli,” bellowed a voice. “Why do you stand like a dumb
Moo Hoo when there is work to be done?”

The Rhinoceros aroused himself and whirled about, too confused to express
his thoughts with fitting words. He trotted behind his friend, sullen and
thoughtful; and so in silence they approached the great Rock which thrust
itself into the valley from the more distant heights like a rugged
outpost placed there to guard the river and lowlands.

“This is the place,” said the Mammoth. “Now we must look around for Grun
Waugh.”

“We can look when we get there,” Wulli sniffed and he scrambled boldly
up the slope. Hairi followed. No more words were wasted. Their breath
was needed for the steep climb. Higher and higher rose their huge bodies
until they neared the foot of a more abrupt although short ascent; the
middle terrace. This latter was topped by a broad rock-platform which
projected from the towering back-wall. A few more steps and the Mammoth’s
eyes were above the level of this platform.

“Take care, no noise,” he whispered suddenly. “Grun Waugh is not here.
Another has taken his place.”

“Who?”

“Not so loud, I tell you. It is one of the Cave-folk; the kind that has
no tail and walks around on its hind legs.”

“Bear?”

“No, no; come and see for yourself.”

The Rhinoceros advanced several steps which brought his eyes above the
level of the ledge. He took a long, careful look, then turned to the
Mammoth and said in a low voice trembling with disappointment:

“Trog-man; oo-oo-oo! Grun Waugh gone and all we have done goes for
nothing. What shall we do?”



III


The Mammoth had no share in his companion’s regrets. That which he saw,
aroused his interest to the full.

The rock-platform below which he stood was backed by a lofty limestone
wall. The latter rose straight up in seamed and jagged layers and ended
in a high table-land crowned with snow and leafless shrubs. A cavern
opened at its base. In front of the cavern crouched the figure of a
man. His back was turned towards the two friends, giving them only the
rear view of a large bun-shaped head almost buried in broad, massive
shoulders. A hyena skin partly covered his nakedness. It was but a single
garment thrown over his back, with the forepaws tied together beneath his
chin. Shoulders, arms and legs were left exposed. They bulged with fibre
and sinew beneath their covering of short thick hair.

Suddenly the unknown half-turned to glance down beside him, revealing
his features in profile; a low forehead, heavy brow-ridges and deep-set
eyes. His lower face projected strongly forward. Its effect was massive
rather than protruding because of the well-formed nose which amply filled
the space between mouth and eyes. The lower jaw had a round, receding
chin. The huge head was set upon a thick neck, so short that the base of
the skull melted away into the shoulders and gave the latter a stooped
appearance.

The stranger was about five feet tall. He sat, or rather squatted, thigh
on heel with knees apart, devoting his entire attention to some peculiar
task. In his right hand he held a large granite pebble with which he
repeatedly struck a flint-flake held in his left. At every stroke, the
chips flew about his ears beneath the blow of the hammer-stone.

To the Mammoth, this performance was more puzzling than the performer
himself. He had seen cave-men before but never at such close range.

“Odd creatures these Trog-folk,” he whispered. “See how he sits on his
hind legs and uses the front ones—just like a squirrel. What can he be
doing?”

“Cracking rocks,” Wulli replied. “All Trog-men do the same thing—I know
not why.”

“Indeed; I never noticed what they were doing,” said the Mammoth and
he continued to watch the scene before him with the greatest interest.
Apparently the Cave Man had espied neither him nor the Rhinoceros,—the
two eavesdroppers peering over the terrace behind him. Rock-cracking
claimed his sole and undivided attention. The hammer-stone in his right
hand rose and fell with unbroken regularity upon the flint-flake held in
his left.

Wulli quickly tired of this monotonous performance; but with every blow,
the Mammoth’s eyes and mouth opened wider and wider.

“What does it mean?” he exclaimed. “So unusual. There must be something
in rocks of which we have not yet learned.”

“Perhaps he eats them,” grunted the Rhinoceros. “If so he can have my
share. They break teeth and taste of nothing. I prefer grass.”

“Look,” Hairi whispered in an awed voice. The Cave Man had ceased
pounding the flint he held and was examining it with the greatest care,
first on one side then on the other, meanwhile running his thumb along
its ragged edges. Something about it must have displeased him, for
with a grunt he tossed the flake over his left shoulder, then selected
another from a small pile before him. The rejected flint, hurled so
unceremoniously over the ledge, struck the Mammoth’s trunk. Hairi emitted
a muffled squeal which instantly betrayed his presence.

The Cave Man sprang quickly to his feet. For an instant, he glared
fiercely at the two eavesdroppers, then snatching up a jagged rock,
bounded nimbly to the terrace edge.

[Illustration: “UGH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE?”]

“Ugh-h! What are you doing there?” he demanded in a deep guttural voice.
The rock was poised threateningly over the Mammoth’s head.

Hairi was too startled by the suddenness of it all to speak or move.
Wulli’s eyes sparkled. He was taking note of the Cave Man’s resolute
bearing and the huge rock held aloft with such seeming ease. He was
amazed that the Cave Man was prepared to defend himself and at the great
physical strength which could lift a stone of such size and weight. No
fear that it might at any moment come tumbling down upon his own head
disturbed Wulli’s trend of thought.

The stranger had spoken words that neither of his hearers could grasp,
the man-language which in their ears was a confused jabber of meaningless
sounds. But his look and actions were enough. He had not flinched from
even such a formidable pair as the Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros; and
then as though realizing that he had none but brutes to deal with, he
burst forth into the Mother Nature tongue:

“By the Lion’s tooth! What are you doing there?”

Hairi shrank back amazed. He now heard and saw familiar sounds and
gestures—the beast-talk which all creatures could understand. Never had
he thought Trog-men capable of talking sense—these strange beings who
huddled together in caves and made no friends among the beasts about them.

“The Cave Lion—where is he?” was all the Mammoth could say.

“Gone. What do you want of him?”

“We came to fight,” replied the Elephant who by this time was fast
recovering from his first astonishment. “He lives in that cave; so we
have been told.”

The other lowered his arms and tossed the rock to one side. “Then you did
not come here to fight me?” he demanded.

“As you please,” snorted the Rhinoceros. “But we must attend to Grun
Waugh first. Then you may have your turn.”

The Cave Man smiled. Beasts never more than snarled and showed their
teeth; and in their hideous mouthings was none of the joy and sunshine
which now softened that friendly face. The smile was a revelation. Both
the Mammoth and Rhinoceros unconsciously felt its warmth. Unkind thoughts
were for the moment cast aside. After much effort, they dragged their
great bodies up the steep face of the terrace. Seeing that the two beasts
were peaceably inclined, the Cave Man stepped back and permitted them a
foothold upon the rock-platform. As they scrambled up and found room for
themselves, he stood fearlessly beneath the mighty Mammoth’s trunk and
curling tusks; unabashed within thrusting range of the Rhino’s horn. With
a confidence born only of the moment, he unhesitatingly placed himself at
the mercy of his visitors, a situation which they were quick to see and
appreciate.

“Oo-wee! No teeth nor claws and yet you do not fear us,” Wulli could not
help saying. “But all is well; we wish you no harm.”

“Who are you?” Hairi asked.

“Pic.”

The Mammoth frowned. “None but leaders and fighters have names,” he said
sternly. “You are but one of the poor Trog-folk as we can plainly see. We
are Hairi the Mammoth and Wulli the Rhinoceros——”

“And I am Pic,”—said the other boldly. He hesitated a moment, then
added—“the Ape Boy.”

“Ape Boy?” Wulli asked. “What is that?”

“A boy is a young man. As for the ape part I do not know, nor am I so
sure I would like it if I did know. The Cave Lion, even men call me that.”

“Owk, the Cave Lion,” said the Mammoth, suddenly remembering what he was
there for. “Where is he? How did you come here?”

“I live here,” was the answer. “I have lived in this valley ever since
I can remember. Do you see that cave?”—the Ape Boy pointed to the dark
opening in the rock-wall,—“It is mine. I sleep there.”

“Then we have come to the wrong place.”

“Yes and no. The Cave Lion lived there too but that was when I was away.
When the cold weather came, I had to find shelter, so I drove him out.”

Hairi and Wulli pricked up their ears at this. Of all animals, Grun Waugh
was a tough customer, as they well knew. As experts they took no small
pride in their ability to tame him. But lo and behold! here was a puny
Trog Boy who spoke of ousting him from his den as though that were a
simple matter indeed.

“Drove him out, did you?” the Rhinoceros snorted. “Oo-wee! How did the
Cave Lion like that?”

“He was angry,” replied the Ape Boy with a bland smile; “Arrah, so angry!
He absolutely refused to be driven away at first; but I was determined
that he must go. The air became so cold, I had to find shelter. You would
not expect me to stay there with him in it, would you?” he demanded.

By this time Wulli’s professional pride was deeply wounded.

“We came to rid that den of its owner, Grun Waugh,” he said. “But now
that he is gone, you who can manage the brute so easily may serve our
purpose even better.” In spite of his endeavor to appear calm, Wulli’s
voice jerked perceptibly.

The Ape Boy set his jaws tightly together and glared at the Rhinoceros.

“Take care,” he growled. “You see that I wear the skin of a hyena—my own
killing. I have disposed of the Cave Lion for all of his sharp teeth and
claws. You two—horns, tusks and everything—can be dealt with in the same
way.”

Wulli promptly accepted this threat as a challenge. He trotted to the
cave mouth and backed into the dark opening until only head and horn
protruded. The Mammoth lumbered after and strove to imitate him. When
about half-way in, he came to a sudden stop. His shoulder-hump had bumped
against the roof and he could proceed no farther.

“Owk, owk; this hole is too small,” he bellowed. “What shall I do?”

“Be quiet,” sounded Wulli’s muffled voice behind him. “You are a
cave-lion; so am I. Now let us see if he can drive us out.”

After waiting until the pair were firmly intrenched, the Ape Boy left
them to their own devices for the moment while he darted about the
rock-platform, picking up such dry leaves, sticks and brush as lay there
fallen from above. These he piled in front of the two animals, now
playing the parts of a pair of fierce cave-lions about to be driven
forth into the cold world by the third and star performer—himself. The
Mammoth and Wulli—peering between his partner’s forelegs—looked on,
curious rather than fierce. They saw the Ape Boy glide away and disappear
in a cleft behind a projection in the back wall. They were preparing to
claim a well-earned victory when the youth suddenly reappeared with a
smoking firebrand in one hand. As the odor of burning wood reached their
nostrils, Hairi and Wulli coughed and stamped their feet uneasily. They
saw the Ape Boy kneel down and thrust the brand into the mass of twigs
and leaves. Then came a strange crackling sound followed by a sight
fearful to behold.

From the pile arose red writhing tongues which leaped and lashed with
burning breath. White cloud-puffs scattered by the breeze, curled about
in all directions and filled the eyes and nostrils of the now terrified
animals. Retreat was impossible; advance hopeless. Solid rock behind; red
tongues and white clouds in front. Amid a chorus of frantic squeals and
trumpetings, a voice rang out loud and clear from behind the red tongues
and white curling clouds:

“Ya-ya, hi-yi! Come out of my cave or stay in and choke.”

But by this time, the two animals were in a panic of fear and took no
heed. Nothing, not even the nearness of death, could have induced them to
dash through the scorching heat and suffocating smoke. The Ape Boy saw
their terror and decided that he had done enough. His heart softened.
With one well-directed kick, he sent the burning embers flying across the
ledge in all directions.

Out dashed the two would-be cave-lions in mad haste and raced along the
platform until the grotto was hidden from their view by a projecting
portion of the back-wall. Here they paused to gather breath and calm
their nerves. Their eyes and noses still smarted from the irritating
smoke.

“Kerchoo! I have had enough of that Ape Boy and his little red and white
animal,” said the Mammoth.

“And I; oo-oo, my nose!” the Rhinoceros wailed. “Let us climb down again.”

So the two friends labored sideways down the steep terrace incline and
were preparing to retreat along the main slope when a rustling sounded
upon the rock-platform. There stood the Ape Boy watching them. His knees
were bent forwards. His arms dangled with the palms of his hands turned
backwards.

“Wait. Don’t go. Do come back.” He spoke so earnestly that the two
animals paused. They saw him squat on the very edge of the terrace,
perched like a bird with feet tightly gripping the shelving ledge.
Each big toe was separate from its mates like a thumb. This peculiar
arrangement enabled him to grasp the edge of the rock and hold himself
securely anchored. No trace of red tongues or white clouds were to be
seen about him. Hairi and Wulli made certain of this. They sniffed and
sniffed but detected no alarming signs.

“What has become of the red animal with the bad, hot breath?” the Mammoth
inquired.

At first the Ape Boy failed to understand, then his face expanded in an
amused smile: “You mean fire and smoke. It is asleep now and I will not
awaken it again if such is your wish.”

“It is,” declared Wulli emphatically. “I will not face it again.”

“I know,” the Ape Boy laughed. “All animals are afraid of fire. That is
why I use it to fight them. The Cave Lion fears it too. Without it, I
could never have driven him away. He could crush me with one blow of his
big paw; but heat and smoke are too much for him.”

At this account of Grun Waugh’s discomfiture, the two animals were much
interested.

“Tell us about him,” Wulli asked.

“And of yourself,” the Mammoth added. “Why do you live here alone?”

“Alone? Yes; why?” The youth’s face sobered in an instant. “Because I
have no friends; that is why. You would not understand. None but men know
what it means to live forever alone.”

The great Mammoth trembled. His ears fluttered like fans. Yes, he
knew. Solitude was his own greatest dread. No lone beast or man need
call vainly upon his sociable nature. The Ape Boy’s words and manner
now impressed him more profoundly than even his first glimpse of the
friendly, grinning face.

He wheeled and scrambled up to the rock-platform. “Come, Wulli,” he said.
“The little red beast sleeps. We must remember our manners and show some
courtesy to one who bears himself so boldly before the Rhinoceros, the
Mammoth and Grun Waugh.”



IV


When on the rock-platform once more, Hairi and Wulli proceeded to make
themselves at home. They settled down comfortably upon the rear cushions
provided them by Nature and the Ape Boy squatted before them. The
Mammoth’s attention was now attracted by the sight of those things which
had first impressed him.

“Why do you beat those rocks together?” he inquired, pointing his trunk
at the chips and flakes about him.

“The round stone is a hammer,” the Ape Boy replied. “The ragged ones are
flints. I make them into weapons and tools. I leave one surface smooth
and chip the other to form the cutting edges.”

“Why use flint, as you call it?” Hairi asked. “And why leave one side
smooth? Oomp! Why do you bother with them at all?”

[Illustration: “WHY DO YOU BEAT THOSE ROCKS TOGETHER?” THE MAMMOTH
INQUIRED]

“Flint is hard and tough,” was the answer. “Of all stone it is the best
for my work. I leave one surface smooth because I know of no other way to
make straight, sharp edges. These are turtle-backs; flat and smooth on
one surface, chipped round on the other. What do you think of them?”

The great Mammoth gazed helplessly at the flakes and broken chips
scattered thickly over the ledge. The Ape Boy’s explanation added but
little to his store of knowledge. All rocks seemed to him cold and
lifeless objects; sharp and unpleasant to the touch.

“But why beat them together?” he asked much puzzled. “Do you eat them?”

“Eat flints? What an odd question,” the Ape Boy chuckled. “Whoever
heard of any man or animal doing anything like that? They are tools and
weapons just as I told you. This one,”—he stooped and picked up a large
almond-shaped flake—“is an ax-head. That”—pointing to another of no
definite form—“is a scraper. Here is another kind”—he selected a broad
blade and held it up to the Mammoth; “the finest I have. Do you know what
it is?”

Hairi shook his head vigorously. He was growing weary of rocks. Now he
knew all that was to be learned of them,—and they were but commonplace
things as he could see. His first curiosity was doomed to further
disappointment. The Ape Boy pounded flints but did not eat them as the
Mammoth half hoped he might. Tools and weapons were beyond his power of
understanding. He lost interest.

“Perhaps the little fat one knows,” the Ape Boy continued. “Do you?” and
he held the flint in front of Wulli’s nose.

A spasm of rage seized the Rhinoceros on hearing himself addressed in
such a disrespectful manner. “Oo-wee! No,” he squealed angrily.

“Never fear,” laughed his tormentor; “this cannot harm you. It is only a
knife;” and he made a pretense of cutting the tip of Wulli’s horn.

The Rhinoceros could only glare at him who dared take such liberties.
Never had he been so teased.

“We have had our fill of rocks,” he said coldly. “Where did you leave the
little red animal. You say it is asleep.”

“Yes. Only when I blow in its face to feed it, will it awaken.”

“What does it eat?” Hairi asked.

“Sticks and leaves; the drier the better. Green ones make it sick.”

“How odd,” the Mammoth remarked. “A grass-eater and yet green things make
it sick. Where does it sleep?”

“In the cleft—the Cave Lion’s path. He is afraid of it and will not
return while it is there.”

“Then he stays away most of the time?” said the Mammoth.

“He comes here much more than I like,” the Ape Boy replied. “I often
leave for food and water—and flints too. I leave my fire burning but
sometimes it goes out. Then, like as not, I find the Cave Lion all
settled here when I return. If so, I smoke him out again. He goes away
growling and waits around for another chance.”

“To step in when you step out,” chuckled the Mammoth who was beginning to
understand this novel see-saw arrangement.

“Exactly. You see there are not enough caves for everybody,—that is, men
and animals. When a cave-man leaves his home, even for a short time,
he is liable to find some animal occupying it when he returns. We have
fierce battles sometimes. I cannot fight the Lion with a flint-ax. He is
too big and strong; so I use fire.”

“Are you a cave-animal?” the Mammoth asked.

“Not a really true one. I live in a cave half of the time and am half
animal so that makes me only half a cave-animal.”

“What is the other half?” inquired Wulli suddenly becoming interested.

“Man, I guess;” the Ape Boy looked thoughtfully at the ground and began
twisting a stick with his toes.

“What is a man? Why is he not an animal?” the Mammoth demanded.

“I scarcely know, myself; but man is different. He walks on his hind
legs, hunts, lives in a cave and——”

“The Bear does all that,” Wulli interrupted. “What else?”

“He uses fire—those red tongues and white clouds.”

“Polecats make bad smells. There must be something else.”

“He makes flint tools.”

The Rhinoceros had no reply ready for this statement, whereupon Hairi
hastened to answer:

“Animals never crack rocks and they are proud of it. I am glad that I am
not a man. They hide in caves and are ashamed to show themselves.”

“Flint-making is work to be proud of,” the Ape Boy retorted. “Were it not
for that, men would be nothing but beasts.”

Haiti and Wulli both frowned. This last remark seemed to reflect upon
themselves.

“So you think yourself better than us because you can crack rocks?” the
Elephant sneered.

“Certainly,” was the prompt answer. “Men can rule the world if they
will; but only with the flint can they do it. When once they learn to
make proper weapons none can withstand them. They have not yet learned;
but the time will come;” and the Ape Boy gazed at the blue sky like one
inspired.

“Umph! Fine big words,” the Rhinoceros sniffed. “But these same men
scatter and run like rabbits whenever we meet. I have no quarrel with
them but they are not friends of mine.”

“Nor mine;” the Ape Boy scowled and said this with such emphasis that his
visitors stared.

“You say first one thing and then another,” Hairi grumbled. “What do you
mean? Are not the Trog-men your friends?”

The question aroused the Ape Boy as if by magic. His deep-set eyes blazed
like two coals of fire. His lips parted in a snarling grin, fiercer than
that of a mad wolf. Every muscle in his body swelled and quivered.

“I hate them,” was all he said; but every word reeked with loathing and
contempt.

“Why?”

“They cast me out,” the youth fairly howled. “It is not enough that I
make weapons for hunters and warriors. They would have me be a hunter and
warrior too. Men hated me because I would neither hunt nor fight.”

“Can you not fight?” demanded the Rhinoceros scornfully. “Even a
squirrel——”

“I can,” the Ape Boy cut him short.

“But I heard you say otherwise,” Wulli snorted.

“I can if I will,” the other corrected. “That is different.”

“Are you afraid to fight?”

“I have held my own against Grun Waugh these many days,” the Ape Boy
replied simply. “Have I shown fear of the Mammoth and Rhinoceros?”

“No;” Wulli gave an emphatic grunt. “You have not; but I fail to
understand,” and he looked thoughtfully at the ground as though at a loss
what to say next.

“When I was young,” the youth continued; “none frowned upon my doing
the work I like best—making flint tools and weapons. I could make them
well—better than any grown man or woman—although I have always striven to
do better. I did little else, but finally the time came when my people
thought me big and strong enough to play a man’s part. They gave me an ax
and dart and sent me forth with our best fighters.”

“That was right,” Wulli observed with an emphatic shake of his head.

“But I refused to fight.”

“Oo!” The Rhinoceros was greatly distressed.

“And I would not hunt.”

“Hunt what?”

“Animals; the Stag, Horse and other grass-eaters.”

“Um,” Wulli blinked stupidly. “But you refused to fight?”

“Yes, I refused.”

“What did your people say about that?” Hairi asked.

“They were very angry,” the Ape Boy replied. “Had not my father
interfered, I would have been killed. But no longer would they permit me
to live among them, so I was cast out to live alone, a renegade, enemy of
men. Since I would not do just as they wished me to, they said that I was
not one of them. I came here, to the only other home I had ever known;
and here I have lived until you came, alone and without companions, man
or beast.”

“Terrible,” Hairi sniffed, deeply touched by the last sentence of
this narrative. “I nearly died of loneliness one cold season when the
Tundr-folk went away and left me by myself. I have one good friend; no
better can be found. Why not a second—yourself? The Mammoth, Rhinoceros
and Ape Boy—we three could rule the world if we willed. Come; join us.”

“But I am a man,” replied the surprised youth. “Men would frown upon me
as a beast and traitor.”

“Have they not already done so?”

The Ape Boy’s lips curled in a hideous snarl: “I hate them.” His
distorted face expressed only contempt and loathing.

“And you will join us?”

“But you object to my flint-making,” protested the youth; and yet as a
recluse and foe of men, he inwardly viewed the other’s suggestion with no
little favor. “I cannot give it up. I would rather make flints and abide
alone than put them aside for the Mammoth and Rhinoceros.”

“We do not object to your flint-making,” Hairi replied. “We merely cannot
see why you choose to do it. Will you join us?”

The Ape Boy looked from one to another of the pair and hesitated. They
were huge, superb creatures; his heart warmed.

“Why not?” a voice within him asked. “What friends more wonderful than
the Mammoth and Rhinoceros, could a lone man wish? Forget those who drove
you into the world an outcast and throw in your lot with this mighty
pair.”

He hesitated. “But the Rhinoceros; are his wishes the same as yours? He
has not yet spoken.”

“He and I think as one,” Hairi answered quickly. “Is it not so, Wulli?”

But the Rhinoceros failed to respond. Wearied by the conversation, he had
fallen asleep with head hung low upon his ample chest.

The Ape Boy peered into his face and grinned: “Doesn’t he look odd that
way; so big, fat and peaceful? We might do something; just to tease him;
run away and hide. We can go down into the valley and be back in time to
find him wondering what has become of us. He will be surprised when he
awakens.”

“He may be vexed as well,” the Mammoth replied gravely. “Wulli is odd
about some things; a bit too serious-minded. He might take offense.”

“Then we must make him change his ways. We will be gone but a short time.
He can easily find us if he tries.”

Hairi yielded reluctantly, for a prank at his friend’s expense filled him
with misgiving. The Ape Boy tip-toed to the edge of the terrace, then
suddenly turned and came back.

“He might think we have fallen from the Rock, when he awakens. This will
teach him better.”

So saying, he picked up a chunk of rotten wood—short and hollow through
the center. This he jammed over the tip of Wulli’s horn firmly and yet
so quietly that the sleeper merely groaned but did not open his eyes. He
then hurried away with the Mammoth and both descended into the valley.
They talked and tramped about, looking at this and that but taking no
heed of passing time and the twilight fast gathering about them. Finally
the Ape Boy turned and looked up at Moustier now dim and hazy above him
in the dusk.

“It is growing late,” he said anxiously; “too late for us to find our way
up in the dark. What shall we do?”

“I fear that we must stay where we are,” the Mammoth replied. “I know
that I could never climb up there in the dark.”

“What if the Cave Lion returns?”

“Wulli can manage him alone, although I would not wish to have it so; but
how are we to mend matters?”

Nothing more could be done so the pair proceeded to make themselves
comfortable for the night. The Ape Boy snuggled up against the Mammoth’s
warm coat and was soon asleep, which latter example his companion was not
slow to follow.

All this time the Rhinoceros remained asleep upon the Rock of Moustier,
unconscious of his own solitude. Oncoming night cast its first twilight
shadows over the valley and highlands. The bats came forth from their
hiding-places and fluttered about the cliffs and ledges on nimble wings.
Not until the chirping of crickets and distant cries of night-roving
animals heralded the fast-gathering dusk did he awaken, yawn and look
about to find himself alone.

It took him but a moment to see how very much alone he was. As he gazed
wildly about him, he saw that the Mammoth and Ape Boy were gone. He ran
to one side of the terrace and looked down into the dark depths; not a
sign. A quick dash to the other side produced no better results. The
Mammoth had disappeared. Gloomy thoughts tormented the Rhinoceros; he
became frantic.

“Oo-oo-oo! he has fallen from the rock or something terrible has
happened. Hairi would not have left me alone unless——” He stopped, for
at that moment he caught sight of the chunk of rotten wood firmly wedged
on the tip of his horn. He gasped, sniffed and his brows contracted with
terrible rage. For the second time, his glossy weapon had been the sport
of others; once by the Ape Boy, now by——

“This is the Mammoth’s work,” he squealed, working himself into a frenzy.
“He shall pay dearly when I meet him again.”

He strove to shake loose the offending object but it stuck tight in spite
of all he could do. Wulli’s rage passed all bounds. It was too late for
a descent or search for his missing companions. In a storm of fury at
his own helplessness, he again stepped to the edge of the terrace and
peered into the black depths. A single misstep might mean a fall and a
broken neck. He shivered at the thought. The clammy night mists came
floating about his ears. They enveloped the terrace in a hazy fog. He
was cold, lonesome and beside himself with rage. A dark shapeless blotch
on the rock-wall suddenly attracted his attention,—the grotto whose dark
entrance offered him its shelter. With bitterness in his heart, Wulli
backed away from the ledge into the gloomy hole. Here he stood stamping
his feet until mind and body yielded beneath the strain and once more he
fell into a sound sleep.



V


The first rays of the morning sun penetrated the grotto and awoke the
sleeping Rhinoceros. For a moment he gazed about him, wondering where he
could be. Voices sounded outside—whispers. Slowly his senses returned,
and with them remembrances of the previous night’s unpleasant experience.
Aha! so the Mammoth and Ape Boy had returned. Now for his part. With
deadly calmness, he stepped to the mouth of the grotto.

A most unexpected sight met his gaze. The Mammoth and Ape Boy had not
returned at all. In their stead, a fierce group sprawled upon the rock
platform. Their backs were turned toward him; but Wulli knew them at once
as the beasts of prey, the flesh-eaters of the caves. Stretched at full
length, lay Grun Waugh the Cave Lion with a Lioness seated by his side. A
little apart squatted the Hyena and Cave Wolf.

“A wonderful place,” the Lioness was saying. “None but an eagle would
presume to choose a home so high above the valley.”

“None but me you mean, my dear,” Grun Waugh gently but firmly corrected.

“Yes, none but you, of course,” the Lioness replied. “Is the cave
unoccupied?”

“Hagh-gh-h!” Grun Waugh turned his head away and licked his singed
whiskers. “That miserable Ape Boy I told you of, has taken to coming
here. Between the two of us—you and I—we should now be able to keep him
and his little hot beast away.”

“We might choose another home,” said the Lioness; “one that requires less
climbing. There is Sha Pell—a charming cave and empty too or at least it
was when I last passed that way.”

“Full now,” the Wolf humbly ventured to remark. “A man has just moved
in—a man blind in one eye. He looked sick to me.”

“A sick man you say—and blind?” the Hyena asked. “That interests me.
There was a blind man, leader of the Ape Men whom I have often seen while
waiting around their camp for scraps of meat and other good things. I
remember him well. He was old. He had grey hair. I had hoped soon to know
him better. And so he is sick. If my lord will excuse me, I will now take
my humble leave and pay my respects to this man who lives alone in Sha
Pell and who is old, sick and blind in one eye.”

He was slinking away when Grun Waugh stopped him.

“Hold!” he growled. “I will go with you. Man’s flesh would be a welcome
change. There will be enough left for you when the carcass grows cold.
Stay here, my dear,” he said to the Lioness. “You and the Wolf can have
the Ape Boy for your portion—when he returns.”

The Hyena who had been listening to his master’s bidding with a thwarted
hang-dog air suddenly raised his head and began sniffing vigorously in
all directions. Finally his twitching nose pointed towards the grotto and
held still. His ears stood erect. He burst into an uproarious mirthless
laugh:

“Hee-hee, ha-ha, wah-ho!” The other three animals looked around to seek
the cause of his hilarity and were amazed to see the head of a rhinoceros
protruding from the mouth of the grotto.

A scene of wild confusion followed. Grun Waugh sprang snarling to his
feet while the Lioness made ready to dash in when he gave the signal.

The Rhinoceros saw in a moment that he was the surprise of the party;
that his presence was neither welcome nor expected. He settled back again
into his refuge, with horn lowered, legs squared and fully prepared to
give a good account of himself.

[Illustration: GRUN WAUGH SPRANG SNARLING TO HIS FEET]

Grun Waugh snarled angrily as he observed how securely the Rhinoceros
was placed. No way to overpower him by numbers. The grotto protected
his flanks and rear. His horn guarded the entrance. The matter was
one requiring serious thought. He ceased snarling. To him, the Woolly
Rhinoceros was a well-known character; an animal to be treated with the
utmost caution and respect. He closed his jaws so that Wulli’s suspicions
might be lulled by the concealment of red mouth and threatening teeth.
His great claws withdrew into their sheath-pads. In a twinkle, the Cave
Lion, according to his own ideas, was transformed into a lamb; but his
tail writhed and squirmed—a fact which had not escaped Wulli’s notice.
Beasts with squirming tails were not to be trusted.

“Prrr, prr, prr: there stands our old neighbor the Woolly Rhinoceros,”
he purred in his most friendly manner. “I never knew you could climb
mountains. How did you get here?”

“We walked,” the Rhino replied in a chilly voice. His piggy eyes kept
close watch and he refused to move an inch from his secure retreat.

“We?” Grim Waugh pricked up his ears and looked nervously about him.
“Who? Where?” he asked.

The question reminded Wulli of the wrong done him the evening before.

“The Mammoth. He ran away and left me alone,” was his sullen response.
“But my turn will come next. Wait and see.”

“Oho!” thought the Lion. “The Mammoth and this rascal have quarrelled.”
Of course Hairi must be somewhere near. Grun Waugh had almost forgotten
him, although fully aware of the friendship between the pair which did
not meet with his approval. Either the Rhinoceros or Mammoth was a
difficult proposition for the strongest flesh-eater to contend with.
Combined, they were invincible. He saw that Wulli was cherishing some
grudge against his partner and inwardly vowed that the breach must be
widened at any cost. Once divided, the pair could be dealt with, singly,
thereby insuring greater chance of success.

“Hagh! I am not surprised that you are vexed,” he said with an effort to
instil a bit of sympathy into his voice. “No animal could endure what he
says about you.”

This was going a trifle too fast. Wulli preferred fighting his own
battles.

“Oo-wee!” he squealed; “I have not asked your advice. Fun is fun and
hurts nobody.”

Grun Waugh saw that he must begin again. He caught sight of the
wood-chunk on Wulli’s horn and took a shot at random:

“Hagh! even so. You could not find the heart to be angry even though
somebody fastened a piece of wood on the end of your horn.”

The Rhino winced and bit his lips. He was hard hit. The shot had told.

“Perhaps the Mammoth meant no harm,” the Lion continued much pleased with
the rapid progress he was now making; “but little things often hurt; the
things he says about you.” Grun Waugh shook his head sadly and glanced at
the sky.

“Umph; what does he say?” Wulli demanded irritably. “Nothing that I know
of.”

Grun Waugh turned to his mates with an air of: “There, I told you so. He
doesn’t know.”

The Lioness licked her lips and assumed an expression of mysterious
wisdom. The Hyena leered and ducked his head. The Cave Wolf doubled up to
kick at a flea on his neck as he always did when noticed by his superiors.

“It is not for me to conceal the truth,” the Cave Lion replied. “The
Mammoth says that you are an inferior animal—a Moo Hoo. It seems a
strange thing to say.”

“Inferior animal?” Wulli cried. “He never said that to me.”

“He would be a Moo Hoo himself if he did,” said the Lioness with a leer.

“Quite right, my dear,” observed Grun Waugh with an approving nod. “We
must credit the Mammoth with some sense. He waits until the Rhinoceros
is beyond his hearing when he speaks of the fat little creature he has
made friends with.”

“And horned pig—do not forget that,” added the Cave Wolf; and once more
be doubled up to claw the back of his head. The Hyena emitted a fiendish
laugh; in fact all viewed these tributes to the Rhinoceros with the
utmost good-nature; all but Wulli. He was simply furious. He remembered
well that the Mammoth always treated him in a free-and-easy manner—but
friendly too, so he had not objected. The remarks he had just heard
might have sounded differently if delivered to him first hand; but they
were absolutely insulting in the mouths of others. He bit the ground
with rage. The Cave Beasts exchanged satisfied glances. Things were
progressing finely. No need of pushing matters too fast.

“I suppose the Ape Boy too has been annoying you,” purred Grun Waugh.
“None but his paw could have fastened that piece of wood on the tip of
your horn.”

Wulli’s ears pricked up quickly then flopped down again. “Umph,” was all
he said.

“Mischievous little animal—that Ape Boy,” said Grun Waugh. “He was even
worse before he had his tail pulled off when he jumped around in the
trees.”

“Ho-ho, haw-haw-haw!” howled the Hyena in fiendish glee. “Lost his tail;
he-he! Now he has to stay on the ground.”

“And now he is pretending to be a man,” the Lioness sniffed. “Miserable
ape-beast hiding in a man’s skin. Hagh-h! Who would associate with him?”

“Too bad that the Rhinoceros has such untrustworthy friends,” said the
Cave Lion in a choking voice. “We like him personally but he chooses bad
company.”

These remarks were coldly received. Wulli remained stubbornly on his
guard and the terrible nose-horn ever covered his enemies ranged about
the mouth of the cave. “You attend to your own affairs. I will manage
mine,” was his grim response.

Grun Waugh ground his teeth. He longed to spring upon the Rhinoceros and
tear him to shreds but hesitated to impale himself upon that terrible
nose-horn. He bit his lips perplexed and wondered what course to pursue.
His associates fidgeted uneasily. They were unaccustomed to seeing their
leader at a loss before any mere grass-eating animal. The fierce King
of Beasts felt that his honor and dignity were at stake. He must act
promptly to clear himself in the eyes of his friends.

Grun Waugh nodded to those behind him and settled down until his chest
and stomach touched the ground. He was about to give the signal for
attack by dashing upon the Rhinoceros, when a faint thump, thump, sounded
below the terrace. He pricked up his ears and glanced in that direction.
The other Cave Beasts too had heard. They faced about and stood
motionless, listening intently to the sound of heavy feet plodding up the
slope. Suddenly a wind-puff wafted an odor to their nostrils, clear and
unmistakable to all:

“The Mammoth! The Hairy Elephant! Here he comes.”

“To the ledge,” whispered the Cave Lion. “Hagh! Take your places quick,
before he sees us.”

Without a sound, the four animals glided to the edge of the terrace and
took positions commanding the Mammoth’s point of approach. Here they
crouched low and watched the approaching Elephant without themselves
being seen.

To Wulli, these queer actions were of no great interest as they did not
seem to concern himself. However it might all mean some trickery to coax
him from his refuge. “When in doubt, play safe,” was his motto for the
time being, so he refused to budge.

His ears suddenly caught the sound of ponderous feet laboring up the
slope. His nostrils swelled and sniffed in that direction as he waited
with legs stiffly braced, tail rigid for the something about to happen.
In a moment the peak of a great shaggy head thrust itself above the ledge
followed by an uplifted trunk and long curling tusks rising higher with
every step.

Like a flash, the sight of the Mammoth brought back to Wulli the memory
of his wrongs. Once more the fires of wrath burned fiercely within
his breast. He took a deep breath, lowered his horn and emerged from
the grotto fully prepared and determined to give his partner a warm
reception. Then his heart gave a great bound as a loud scuffling sounded
upon the terrace—a bedlam of cries and rushing feet. He saw the Cave
Beasts lying in ambush, rise from their places of concealment and dash
upon the Mammoth. He heard the latter’s terrified bellows, the snarls
of the Wolf, the Hyena’s laughing howl mingled with human cries and the
roaring of lions.

Wulli looked down at his fore-feet much disturbed. The Cave Beasts
seemed determined to interfere in his own personal affair. Hairi must be
punished, of course, but this was his quarrel and one not to be entrusted
to meddling strangers. The tumult was increasing in violence with every
passing moment and still he remained motionless, debating within his mind
what was to be done next.



VI


The sudden attack of the Cave Beasts fell upon the Mammoth like lightning
from a clear sky. In a moment he perceived his danger. Retreat was
impossible before such active enemies; further advance equally so. Above
and in front of him, crouched the Lion and Lioness while the Hyena and
Cave Wolf hovered upon his flanks. The slightest misstep would have sent
him tumbling down the slope. Finding himself unable to watch all of his
enemies at once, he ignored the Wolf and Hyena and devoted his entire
attention to the pair of big cats snarling and roaring above his head.

This left his rear entirely exposed. The Cave Wolf, a gaunt long-legged
brute of almost bear-like size, now dashed in and attempted to seize the
Mammoth’s hind leg. This move might have brought about Hairi’s undoing
had it succeeded. A moment’s distraction,—a turn of the head would have
exposed his neck and shoulder to the two furies in front. But the Wolf’s
cunning strategy was met by the prompt action of one whom until this time
the Cave Beasts had entirely ignored.

A squat, powerful figure suddenly darted from behind the Mammoth and
faced the Cave Wolf with all teeth bared and eyes flashing like coals of
fire from the bottom of two deep pits. It was Pic the Ape Boy, his face
distorted with furious rage. Like a flash, he sprang between the Mammoth
and Wolf and before the latter could close in, he had seized a jagged
rock and raised it threateningly aloft. The huge Wolf snarled and gnashed
his teeth, but he advanced no farther.

In spite of this diversion, the Mammoth was in a truly desperate plight.
He seemed to have lost all power of resistance. The Hyena now sought
to turn the scale by stealing around upon the Ape Boy from behind. The
Mammoth observed and gave up all hope. Surrounded by enemies and unable
to employ his great weight and strength to any advantage, he raised his
head like one drowning and bellowed in his dire distress:

“Wulli! Help! Oh Wulli!”

From his refuge in the grotto, the Rhinoceros heard; and the call for aid
changed the trend of his thoughts like magic. Hairi, his partner, was
being hard pressed by a horde of Cave Beasts seeking to destroy him. In
an instant, all enmity for the Mammoth fled from his breast. He proceeded
to act. With a bound, he cleared the grotto and bore down upon the
Cave Beasts in a furious charge, thundering, roaring, squealing, tail
straight out behind and the fire of battle in his eyes.

All heard, saw and felt him coming. The Mammoth groaned as he espied the
strange figure—supposedly some new enemy—speeding across the ledge; then
his heart gave a great leap as Wulli completed his meteoric dash and
halted on the edge of the terrace with a jolt that shook the rock.

His dramatic arrival threw consternation into the ranks of the Cave
Beasts. The Hyena fled in terror and the Wolf raced down the slope
lickety-split with his tail between his legs. Grun Waugh growled angrily
at the sudden turn of affairs. As he crouched with tail lashing from
side to side, the eyes of the Rhinoceros fell upon him. Wulli uttered a
shrill squeal and charged with the swiftness of thought. The Cave Lion
took one look at the oncoming horn and waited to see no more. With a
blood-curdling screech, he sped along the ledge like a streak of yellow
light with the Rhinoceros at his heels. For an instant it seemed as
though he must surely be impaled upon the horn threatening his rear. The
fear of such a catastrophe lent him wings. A fresh burst of speed and his
lead was increased to a more comfortable margin. All his dignity was cast
aside in a frantic effort to put the greatest possible space between his
hindquarters and the Rhino’s horn. He reached the edge of the terrace and
shot down the slope never stopping until all possibility of his being
overtaken was beyond the shadow of a doubt.

[Illustration: THE CAVE LION TOOK ONE LOOK—AND WAITED TO SEE NO MORE]

On seeing the uselessness of further pursuit, Wulli came to a sudden
halt. A sedge-tuft protruding from a crevice, chanced to catch his eye
and he proceeded to nibble it with an air of the utmost unconcern. The
battle was over.

The Mammoth now mounted the terrace followed by the Ape Boy. Both gazed
at the Rhinoceros in amazement.

“Owk, owk; wonderful!” the big Elephant bellowed. “Never have I seen
anything more wonderful than the way you made Grun Waugh run.”

Wulli said nothing. With most becoming modesty, he continued to bite at
the tuft before him; but he was thinking. In his mind, glowed the spark
of an almost forgotten purpose; of wrongs unavenged, as he watched his
partner out of one eye. Then with brows contracted and nostrils swelling
ominously, he turned and advanced upon the Mammoth.

Hairi sensed the approaching storm. His trained eye noted the lowered
horn and his partner’s determined air. He became confused and stood
staring like one in a trance, too helpless to move.

Slowly the Rhinoceros advanced until his horn was almost beneath the
Mammoth’s chest. One quick upward thrust and the affair would be quickly
ended. He paused and Hairi awaited the fatal stroke, his limbs paralyzed
with horror.

Suddenly a dark figure sprang between the pair. It was the Ape Boy. His
body almost touched the tip of Wulli’s horn.

“Back, pig-beast,” he howled. “Would you dare touch the Mammoth? You have
gone mad.”

The Rhinoceros raised his head and retreated a step. The amazement, now
shown in every line of his face, was a picture to see.

“You?” he gasped and choked.

“Yes, I.”

“Can you; will you fight?” the Rhinoceros demanded eagerly.

“I can and will. You shall see.”

“Good,” Wulli grunted. “When you are ready, begin.”

“But I have no weapon,” said the Ape Boy. “You have a horn; I nothing.
Will you fight fair?”

The Rhinoceros nodded. The youth was making for the grotto when Wulli
stopped him.

“That red beast with the hot breath?” he grumbled. “No; you must fight
with something else. I have had enough of its bad smell.”

“I will fight you with ax and dart,” replied the other angrily. “They
lie on the cave-floor. Are you afraid?”

Wulli stepped back. Pic entered the grotto and reappeared in a moment
bearing in his right hand a flint ax-head bound in a stout wooden haft.
Several darts tipped with sharp-pointed flakes were in his left. Such
were the Ape Boy’s weapons—the stone-ax and short stabbing spear—and not
to be despised when a bold heart and powerful arm were behind them.

He laid the darts on the rock platform and took a position upon the edge
of the terrace with ax swung over his right shoulder.

“I am ready; now begin,” and he waited for the Rhinoceros to attack.

Wulli aroused himself with a start. This was to be a duel to the death—no
light affair,—touch, scratch and both satisfied. Rarely did he so bungle
in his work. He lowered his horn, squared his legs and then found himself
unable to proceed. That Ape Boy was so deadly calm and looked at him so
strangely out of his deep-set eyes. Wulli felt sobered, awed. He would
have welcomed violence; but those eyes chilled his marrow. He made one
last effort to lash himself into a frenzy but it was no use. His eyes
sought the ground; his tail hung limp like a wet string.

“Umph,” he grunted; “I will not fight one who must stay on the ground
because somebody has pulled off his tail.”

Pic’s eyes opened wide.

“Who says that?” he growled in a hoarse voice.

“Grun Waugh—and I say it because it makes you angry. ‘Once you had a tail
and jumped about in the trees;’ he said that too.”

Pic was fast losing his temper, a fact which now put the Rhinoceros in
the best of humor.

“Ape-beast hiding in a man’s skin,” he sniffed. “The Lioness said that.”

“Agh! What more?” The Ape Boy’s eyes blazed.

“Umph,” grunted Wulli. “Ask Grun Waugh. He and his pack have gone to the
grotto of Sha Pall. The Wolf told him of a lone man who lived there.”

“A lone man? Whoow! Hardly a fair match is four cave-beasts against one
lone man.” Pic’s rage softened as he thought of a fellow-being set upon
by such overwhelming odds.

“A poor match indeed,” Wulli admitted. “He was sick too—the Man was. The
Wolf said so.”

“Sick and alone?”

“Yes and he was blind in one eye. I heard the Wolf say that too.”

“What—blind?” Pic gripped his ax-handle until the wood creaked. “What
more did the Wolf say?”

“Nothing more,” Wulli replied. “But the Hyena seemed to know who the man
was—an old man with grey hair; a leader of other men. He was asking Grim
Waugh’s leave to go and visit the grotto of Sha Pell and pay his respects
to the lone man who was old, sick and blind in——”

“Agh, ar-rr-ah-h!” With a hair-raising yell the Ape Boy fairly hurled
himself from the ledge and shot down the slope leading to the valley.
The Mammoth and Rhinoceros stood motionless, speechless with amazement
as they watched the flying figure grow smaller and smaller and finally
disappear among the clefts and boulders far below.



VII


The days passed. They grew into weeks, months, and meanwhile the Rock
of Moustier remained bare and deserted. The visits of the Mammoth
and Rhinoceros grew less and less frequent until finally they ceased
altogether. Apparently the Ape Bay had left his home never to return.

It was the Irish Elk who one day came dashing up to inform Hairi and
Wulli of his narrow escape from a pack of cave-beasts who had sprung out
upon him as he journeyed through the hill country. They were gathered in
front of a grotto. A man was standing in the entrance fighting them off
with a stone tied to a stick. He was standing behind a pile of something
which gave off thick white clouds. The mention of white clouds set the
Mammoth and Rhinoceros to thinking. They knew of but one who fought that
way. As they glanced at each other, the same thought was in the minds of
both.

“Whenever you are ready,” said Wulli and so off they went. The hill
country lay to the east. It was after a long walk that, at a signal from
the Mammoth, both stopped to listen. In the distance sounded a confused
babel of howls and roars.

“Cave-beasts,” muttered Hairi and they moved on again. The sounds grew
louder and more distinct—barks and roars of beasts among which a peculiar
hoarse cry could be plainly heard. A hill rose up before them. A path
wound and disappeared around its base. The two friends followed this and
on rounding the hill, were confronted by a remarkable scene.

The path led to a grotto in the hillside. In front of the grotto, tiny
smoke-wreaths arose from a fire’s last smouldering embers. Behind the
heap of ashes, crouched a man almost in the cave-entrance, whirling a
flint-ax above his head and shouting at the top of his lungs. Before him
glided Grun Waugh, the Hyena and other beasts of prey awaiting their
chance to spring. The Cave Man’s fierce attitude alone held them at bay,
now that they had lost all fear of the rapidly fading fire. His manner
was no less animal-like than that of the savage beasts gathered about
him. His bared teeth, blazing eyes and furious howls were enough to make
even the Cave Lion hold back dismayed. Deprived of the protection of his
fast-dying fire, he raged and tore in such wild frenzy that none dared
rush in and grapple with a creature so furious and desperate.

For an instant, the Mammoth and Rhinoceros looked on dismayed by the
terrible sight. But there was no mistaking that squat, powerful frame nor
the face even when distorted by fiendish rage. The mad fury was their
former acquaintance, Pic the Ape Boy of Moustier.

It took the two friends but a moment to see how matters stood. The Ape
Boy was in trouble—fighting for his life and in great need of their
assistance. Side by side, they bore down upon the group; not in a blind
charge but grimly determined and keeping close watch as they advanced.

The Hyena was the first to observe their approach. Skulking behind the
others as was his custom and interested only in seeing that his line of
retreat was kept open, he espied the oncoming pair and gave the alarm.
With a howl of terror, he dashed off in the opposite direction and thus
gave warning to his companions.

The Cave Beasts faced about like a flash. In their blind rage at finding
themselves interfered with, matters looked dark for a moment. The Mammoth
and Rhinoceros came grimly on, shoulder to shoulder like a pair of
trained gladiators. Except for the Hyena now rapidly disappearing, the
Cave Beasts, in their turn held firm.

But Hairi and Wulli were not to be denied. They meant business; not the
wild hit-or-miss variety but the plain step-up-and-have-it-out kind. Even
Grun Waugh found himself unequal to such a cold-blooded way of doing
things. He stepped back. This was the signal for a general retirement.
His companions abandoned their attack upon the Ape Boy and retreated
along the hillside, followed by the Lion who never ceased snarling with
baffled hate at being thus forced to give ground. At last with a parting
screech he turned tail and crawled rapidly away after his more timid
companions. As he disappeared in the thicket, Hairi called a halt:

“Enough; we may fall into an ambush and spoil all.”

So the pair turned back to the Ape Boy who was staring at them almost
overcome with astonishment.

“Whoow!—where did you come from?” he finally managed to stammer.

“We came to see what all the noise meant,” Hairi replied. “Oomp! It is
well for you, we did.”

“You arrived at just the right time,” said Pic. “A little later and you
would have found Grun Waugh gnawing my bones.”

“Why did you leave us on the Rock without saying a word?” Hairi grumbled.
“You have given us much worry and trouble.”

[Illustration: PIC AT SHA PELL]

“He was vexed with Grun Waugh,” Wulli now put in. “Grun Waugh called him
an Ape Boy—a little tree-beast without a tail, hiding in a man’s skin.”

For an instant, Pic glared at the Rhinoceros, then replied scornfully:

“Agh-h! I know now what the name means. None but enemies would so speak
of me. But not because of that did I leave the Rock. It was to help him
of whom the Hyena spoke—an old man living alone, sick and blind, in the
grotto of Sha Pell. Cave-men will have none of a leader grown old and
feeble. This one, their chief, was cast out to die. He came here and
then—I came too. He was very sick. I took care of him. Then the Cave
Beasts set upon us and I dared not leave him alone to hunt food and water
and gather wood for my fire. This man is my father——”

“Father?—Good!” the Mammoth grunted approvingly. “Friends should ever
help each other. But are you sure he was your father? I cannot see how
you remembered him. I could not have done it. Perhaps I never had a
father. Had you, Wulli?”

The Rhinoceros cocked his head and looked thoughtfully at the ground.

“Father? Oo-wee! I do not remember that I ever had one. I would not know
him even if I saw him.”

“But I know mine,” said Pic. “He was my good friend too or I would never
have come here to help him.”

“Where is he now?” asked Hairi gazing up and down the hillside.

“In the cave,” said Pic. “None of us can help him now. He is dying.”

Hairi and Wulli stepped to the grotto’s mouth and peered in. For a
moment, they could see nothing; but as their eyes became adjusted to the
darkness, they made out the form of a man stretched full length upon the
floor. A pile of dried grass and leaves supported the head. A tattered
fragment of bear-skin partly enveloped the body. The figure was that
of an old man aged by disease and the nearness of death. His eyes were
closed. Breath came and went in feeble irregular gasps. The wide-open
mouth was burned and parched with wasting fever. Although reduced almost
to a skeleton, the short, broad frame showed traces of a once gigantic
strength. The protruding face, chinless jaws, eyes buried beneath heavy
brows which merged into the low sloping forehead, were the same as those
of the youth now bending over him.

“You see he is too sick to help himself,” Pic explained. “Once he was the
best hunter and warrior in our whole band. But the sickness came upon him
and when he was dying, his people—my people—drove him away. I kept the
Cave Beasts from him but that was all I could do.”

His two hearers gazed intently into the sufferer’s face. They said
nothing, only stared; too awed by the strange scene to speak a single
word.

The whole group was like a strange bit of sculpture:—the grotto and its
dying occupant; the Ape Boy crouched over the sick man; the two great
brutes standing by awed and attentive; every figure motionless and rigid
as though cast in bronze.

For a time, all was still and the Cave Man’s feeble gasps could be heard
above the low breathing of the three silent spectators. Then the wasted
chest heaved and the sick man slowly opened one eye. As it looked upon
the Ape Boy’s face, a flash of color lighted the ghastly features and he
strove to raise his head. An arm encircled his shoulders, and helped him
to rise. He opened his mouth to speak; but the effort was too much and he
sank back exhausted.

The Ape Boy’s body was now thrust between him and the light.

“Stand back,” Pic whispered to his companions. “He must not see you. He
would be displeased to know that you are with me here.”

Hairi and Wulli retreated several paces. Both obeyed silently and without
protest, for reasons they could not understand.

Slowly the blood returned to the sick man’s pallid face. Once more his
one good eye opened and gazed at his son. As he struggled to rise, the
latter’s powerful arm helped him into a sitting posture.

“I knew it,” the Cave Man muttered. “My boy is no traitor; friend of
beasts, enemy of men. You fought the flesh-eaters—for your sick old
father. I saw—and you fought well.”

These last words were spoken in a scarcely audible whisper—a last
outpouring of fast-failing strength. But with his expiring breath, the
dying man’s will-power thrust aside, for a moment, the hand of death and
summoned strength for words too weighty to be borne unspoken to the grave.

“Listen,” he gasped. “I am not ungrateful. The treasure—it is yours. High
on the mountain side—buried in the cave floor—near the entrance,—beneath
a stone.” The voice became stilled, the eyes closed and the body fell
back heavily. The Ape Boy bent low with one ear against the shrivelled
chest. Eyes and mouth remained staring, wide-open, but the heart beats
were stilled forever. Death had finally come to free the Cave Man from
his sufferings.



VIII


“It is finished. He is dead.” Pic stood at the cave-mouth facing the
two animals who all this time had remained awed spectators of what was
transpiring within.

Wulli took a long deep breath. He turned to the Mammoth. “The Trog-man is
dead. Why should we stay here?”

“Yes, why?” Hairi glanced at Pic. “And you—what will you do now?”

The Ape Boy looked thoughtfully at the sky.

“I scarcely know. Now that my father is dead, I am quite alone. I have
lived much alone but while he was alive I did not feel as now—without any
friends at all.”

“None at all? What of us?” The Mammoth appeared much grieved.

“I meant men-friends—my own people,” Pic replied. “They say—my father
said so too—that men and animals can never be friends. I do not see why
it should be so. Except for my father, I have known none that please me
more than do you and Wulli.”

“Why not join us?” said the Mammoth. “We are two; with you we would be
three. I wish it could be so.”

“And the Rhinoceros—what does he say?”

Wulli’s eyes twinkled. He bobbed his head up and down until his ears
rattled.

“We are three,” he grunted. “Good; let us be off. We can be of no more
help to this dead Trog-man.”

“Agh!” Pic looked down and scratched his head. “What is to be done with
the body? I cannot leave it like that—so cold and alone.”

“But not for long,” Wulli snorted with brutal frankness. “The Cave Beasts
will attend to it. Every hyena in the neighborhood will hear the news by
nightfall.”

“Yes, I know.” Pic was quite familiar with this method of caring for the
dead. Hyenas were prompt and obliging undertakers. The Cave Lion might
prefer food of his own killing; but hyenas were not so particular. Pic
shuddered, as in his mind’s eye he saw these unclean scavengers rending
and devouring the lifeless body.

“The foul brutes must not touch him,” he said determinedly. “This grotto
is now my father’s home and in it he shall lie where no flesh-eater can
reach him.”

“What do you intend to do?” Wulli asked.

“Wait and see.” The Ape Boy turned, re-entered the grotto and kneeled
upon the floor. The Mammoth and Rhinoceros crowded closer into the low
entrance and looked wonderingly on. They heard the sound of chopping—of
flint-ax striking into hard dirt. In the dim light they could barely
see the figure of the Ape Boy hard at work upon the cave-floor. Chop,
chop,—the ax rose and fell, stopping at intervals as he laid it aside
and scooped out the loosened earth with his hands. Long and earnestly
he toiled while his friends stood guard at the cave-mouth and awaited
developments. The work went on until a long shallow trench and piles of
dirt bore witness to Pic’s untiring energy. Finally the chopping ceased
and he came crawling to the light on his hands and knees.

Hairi and Wulli shifted to make room as he emerged and seated himself in
the sunlight to rest and fill his lungs with fresh outside air.

“Why do you make that hole?” the Mammoth inquired.

“To bury the body,” Pic replied. “Once covered, the hyenas will find it
hard work to dig him out.”

“Umph!” said Wulli. “I thought you were hunting for something in the
cave-floor.”

“Whoow!” Pic’s eyes opened wide. “My father told me of something before
he died. I had nigh forgotten.”

“What?”

“He was grateful because I helped him. He spoke of treasure that might
some day be mine.”

“Treasure? What does that mean?” Hairi asked.

“Something nice. Something I would like to have.” The Ape Boy clapped his
hands together. He grinned like a pleased child.

“What is it?”

“Umm—now what is it?” Pic screwed up his face much perplexed. “Agh! I do
not know. My father did not say nor did I think to ask.”

“How unfortunate,” said the Mammoth. “Where did he say this treasure was?
We can go and find it.”

“In a cave on a mountain side, buried in the floor near the entrance
beneath a stone: that is what he said.”

“What cave; what mountain?”

Pic looked blank and threw up his hands, palms outwards.

“I am sure I do not know,” he replied helplessly. “I was not thinking of
such things just then and forgot to ask.”

“Ooch, ooch,” Wulli snorted. “You should have known that we would like to
see it. Is it something to eat!”

“My father did not tell me what is was.”

“What would you think?”

“I don’t know.”

“Nuts or fruits possibly,” Hairi suggested. “Squirrels and other animals
sometimes bury them in the ground.”

“The flesh-eaters often act like that. I have seen them,” Wulli declared.
“But they hide only bones. The treasure may be bones; who knows?”

“Not bones,” said the Ape Boy with a smile. “Bones without meat would be
of no value to a cave-man. As for fruits and nuts, they would rot away.
It is something else.”

“What, then?”

“I have no idea.”

The two animals raged inwardly, now that their curiosity was aroused
and found nothing to satisfy it. Even Pic felt a new interest in the
treasure, of which his father had spoken. He had not thought much about
it at the time. His interest in the sick man had precluded all else. Now
he inwardly rebuked himself for his lack of foresight. He might have
learned the nature of the treasure and its place of concealment; but now
his father was dead and the secret had died with him.

“Then the only thing to be done is to go and look for it,” the Mammoth
suggested. “There are many caves. We can search them all.”

“The stone will help us,” said Pic, his hopes rising. “A stone in the
floor marks the spot. I know of many caves; this one, mine upon the Rock
and others; but none of them have stones in the floor. I am certain of
that. When I have finished my task, we can determine what is to be done.”

So saying, he re-entered the grotto. The grave was dug—not a large or
deep one, but with none but a flint tool he had done his best and could
do no more. Laying aside his ax, he seized the dead man by the shoulders
and dragged him into the shallow trench. The latter was scarcely large
enough to contain the body; but he bent the limbs to fit and then began
covering it with the loose earth lying about. Hairi and Wulli took no
part except as interested spectators. They saw Pic pause in his work to
place several stones for protection about the head. They saw him lay
his ear to the dead man’s chest to make certain that no spark of life
remained. They heard his surprised exclamation as his cheek encountered a
hard object concealed beneath the bear-skin which now served as the dead
man’s shroud. And as they gazed and wondered, the Ape Boy fumbled under
the shaggy covering and drew forth something flat and leaf-shaped, much
like his own hand in size and form.

“What is it?” whispered the Mammoth as Pic arose to his feet and glided
to the cave-mouth. But the Ape Boy could find no words for reply. His
eyes were fixed on that which he held in his hand; a flint-blade of
lustrous grey, wonderfully formed, beautifully chipped on both sides—a
specimen of workmanship unsurpassed. To his trained eyes, the marvellous
blade was a sight to endure forever.

“Umph! Only a rock,” said the Rhinoceros as he peered over the other’s
shoulder. But Pic was too engrossed in his discovery to hear. His face
glowed with excitement as he held the prized flint before his companion’s
eyes so that they might see and admire.

“Is it not wonderful?” he asked. “So beautifully flaked and chipped. See
how broad and shapely it is; pointed, double-edged and the same on both
sides. Agh, my poor little turtle-backs! Never can I make another after
having seen this wonder of wonders. How was it done? I would give my life
to know him who made it and learn the secret of its making.”

“A rock,” sneered the Mammoth; then as the Ape Boy shrank from him
offended, he said in less scornful tones: “Yes, it is quite remarkable;
but neither Wulli nor I have use for such things. Come; let us go.”

“Where?” Pic had not once taken his eyes off of the great flint.

“North. Who knows but that the cave and its treasure might not be there?”

“You will see Trog-men too.” Wulli added. “I know because I have seen
them. They spend most of their time cracking rocks along the river banks.”

“Is it so?” Pic glanced tenderly at the great blade and pondered. Perhaps
these northern flint-workers knew the secret of double-flaking and fine
chipping like that shown in his newly-discovered prize. Such knowledge
were well worth the seeking. His skill in making turtle-backs—flaked
round on one surface; flat and smooth on the other—now seemed to him
but feeble and wasted effort. As for the gem he held, it was the tiny
chipping along the margins which brought them to such keen straight
edges, that aroused his greatest interest and speculation. The tiny
chipping! That was the substance of the whole matter. To learn how such
work was done, was a possibility too strong to resist.

“I will go with you;” this with the air of one whose determination is
made, once and for all. “One who lives with beasts must cease to be a
man,” he said to himself. “It is broken—the last tie which bound me to
men.” He glanced at the half-buried corpse; then realizing that his task
was uncompleted, he re-entered the grotto and once more began piling the
dirt over the body. When the grave was half-filled he stopped.

“I have stolen my father’s last flint. He shall have mine instead;” and,
forthwith, his own ax lay beside the dead man.

“Why do you do that?” inquired the Mammoth who had been quick to see.

“He might need it,” Pic answered. “At least his shadow might need it.”

“Shadow? Oomp! He would need food even more.”

“True enough,” Pic admitted. “I had not thought of that.” He crawled on
hands and knees to the rear of the cave and groped about in the darkness.
In a few moments he returned carrying a long ill-smelling object—the
almost putrid limb of a wild-ox. Its odor sickened him. “Poor stuff but
it must do for the want of something better,” was his only comment as the
two animals shrank back in disgust. He dropped it into the grave. There
seemed nothing more to be done, so he covered all with dirt, stamping it
firmly down and piling more rocks over the head and feet. This finished,
he crawled to the cave-mouth and emerged into the open with eyes blinking
at the blinding light.

“All is done,” he said. “And now for the country of the flint-workers.”

“And the cave with its buried treasure. Do not forget that,” Wulli added.
“It must be found.”

Nothing more was said. The trio descended the slope and followed the
winding base of the hill along the same route as that by which Hairi and
Wulli had first come. As they reached the bend which veered their course
to the north, the Ape Boy who was last in line, stopped short. As the
others plodded on, he turned for a last look at the distant grotto. His
right hand gripping the prized flint-blade was raised high above his head
in farewell to the dead Cave Man.

“Rest while your shadow guards you,” he said in a solemn voice. “The
night has come; your day is ended.” The uplifted arm fell to his side.
He faced about and in a moment had vanished around the bend, leaving the
last tie which bound him to humanity lying buried in the floor of the
cave.



IX


Some forty thousand years ago plus or minus a few odd centuries, years,
months, weeks and days, a strange group might have been seen wending its
way northward through the very heart of France. It was the Ape Boy and
his two animal friends, the Hairy Mammoth Elephant and Woolly Rhinoceros.
The two shaggy beasts lumbered on side by side, the former towering twice
above the height of his smaller companion. On the Mammoth’s neck settled
deeply in the depression between head and shoulders, sat Pic with ax held
across his thighs and his hyena robe trailing behind him in the breeze.

Hairi a beast of burden? How hath the mighty fallen! We must go back a
bit to learn why.

When the duet became a trio—Ape Boy, Mammoth and Rhinoceros—and the party
left the Grotto of Sha Pell to journey northward, Spring was already
far advanced. Warm weather was something of a hardship to Hairi and
Wulli, all bundled up as they were in their shaggy overcoats, to say
nothing of thick woolen underwear concealed beneath. And so they made
all haste to reach a more congenial climate. In spite of their vast
bodies and stumpy legs, both could travel fast; but the need of food and
rest had some voice as to the speed at which they travelled. They were
tremendous eaters, but unfortunately the high rocky country provided poor
feeding-grounds.

Their favorite foods were scarce, the grass-tufts few. Their northern
march was a constant turning this way and that in search of edibles which
were snatched up greedily wherever found. On the rough ground, Pic had
the better of his comrades. No rock was too high, no ravine too deep
to bar his way. His step was sure, his head clear and he found little
trouble in making rapid progress over obstacles which caused the others
endless annoyance and delay. Up hill, down dale, through tangled forest
undergrowth and over fallen trees, the Ape Boy led the other two a merry
dance until the party approached the Loire River. Here the tables were
turned. The ground which they had covered was a gradual descent from
forested highlands to comparatively level lowlands as the land-surface
dipped down to the northwest. On the high, rough country, the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros had been at a disadvantage but in the broad level region of
the Loire, food was abundant and everything promised a speedy journey.

But now an unforeseen complication arose; Pic was too slow. He could
not walk as fast as the others, simply because his heels were much too
short; also each big toe stood apart from its mates and lacked stiffness.
Soft, flexible feet were well suited for climbing and clambering about
in rough, broken country;—among cliffs, ravines, rocks and tangled
undergrowth—but in the open they were at a disadvantage. With his short
heels and soft feet, Pic promised to become a burden to his friends,
through no real fault of his own.

“Where is Pic? Stopping to crack rocks, I suppose,” grumbled the Mammoth,
as for the fifth time he halted and observed the one in question lagging
far in the rear. Pic was shuffling along at his best gait with knees
half bent and head held forward, making hard work of the little he
accomplished and tiring fast with the doing of it.

Hairi and Wulli ground their teeth and stamped impatiently until the
laggard finally caught up. He halted before them, squatted on heels and
haunches and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked warm, tired and
discouraged, knowing well that the best he could do was poor enough. His
comrades’ remarks were little calculated to give him comfort.

“You must walk faster,” Hairi scolded. “If you cannot do better than
that, I will soon have to carry you.”

“Carry me?” Pic looked up quickly at the great giant towering over
him; at the Elephant’s head-peak and mighty shoulder-hump and the deep
depression where neck joined body. His face brightened. He rose to his
feet and stepped to the Mammoth’s side.

“Yes, it might be done if you will. Raise your foreleg.” He laid his hand
on the great right wrist which rose above the level of his own knees.

“Fancy my taking orders from small creatures,” Hairi thought to himself;
but he raised his foreleg obediently and stood waiting, curious to see
what would happen next. The Ape Boy climbed upon the outstretched limb
and reaching on high with his hands, secured a firm grip on the Mammoth’s
ear. “Now your trunk,” he commanded. “Help me to climb up.”

Hairi’s trunk curled around sideways and raised the other with scarce
an effort. With this assistance Pic scrambled up. Before the astonished
Mammoth realized what had happened, his neck bore a rider and for the
first time in his life, the head of a living creature towered above his
own.

“I am so small, you can easily carry me,” a voice sounded from behind
his ears. “Now you may go on as fast as you please.”

Before many hours, the Mammoth had become accustomed to his rider and in
that time the wisdom of the new arrangement became apparent to all. From
his elevated position, Pic was enabled to inform his friends regarding
the nature of the country ahead and call their attention to various
interesting things among which they passed. Then too, he selected the
best routes and chose the safest fords when crossing streams. In these
and many other ways, he relieved his friends of many perplexing problems.
In short, he had become the eyes and brains of the party.

Northern France was beginning to prepare itself for a season of warm
breezes and sunny skies when our three tourists crossed the Loire River
and entered the more rolling country beyond. And yet none but hardy
forms of green growth dared show themselves; for the ice-fields yet hung
threateningly to the north, casting their sombre shadows over Western
Europe. Only scattered clumps and single trees—dwarf birch, fir, spruce
and arctic willow strewn sparingly along streams and hillside—marked
once-forested regions. Coarse grass and sedge formed but a threadbare
carpet on meadow and pasture land. And yet this semi-bleak waste abounded
with animal life,—hardy forms in keeping with the grass, brush and
trees. There were wild horses, stilt-legged bison with shaggy heads and
shoulders, long-horned cattle and lesser creatures of the open pasture
lands; stags, roe-deer and Irish Elk of hill and glade; and least
numerous but most menacing, prowling wolves and hyenas which crawled and
skulked from sight, awaiting their chance to secure any tender colt, calf
or fawn or even grown animal that strayed from the protection of its
fellows.

Horse, bison, ox and all stopped work—feeding, playing, sleeping—to
inspect the strangers coming from the south. As the latter drew nearer,
all eyes, ears and noses were gradually drawn to the Mammoth or rather
to something upon his neck which looked and smelled like a Trog-man, but
of course must be something else. Men and beasts did nothing but quarrel
with one another as a rule. No elephant ever travelled about with a man
upon his neck; such a thing was unheard of in the animal world.

But for all that, something of the kind was happening under their very
noses; so the horses, bison, oxen and everything else crowded as closely
as they dared along the line of march, leaving a wide lane through which
the strangers might pass without interruption.

Hairi could not conceal his satisfaction at this publicity so suddenly
thrust upon him. He held his head high and swept on at his most majestic
gait while the spectators stared and admired and wished they were as big
and grand-looking. The Ape Boy caught the spirit of his noble steed and
bore himself right royally, with ax held over one shoulder, like a ruler
parading before his vassals.

Several days journey in this regal splendor brought the party to the
border of a vast, shallow depression scooped as it were from the earth.
Its sides were coated with patches of loam and sand becoming deeper
towards the bottom as though giant hands had washed therein and left
their grime. It was like a saucer—a mighty basin too broad for mortal eye
to span—bounded by a rim of encircling hills which dipped lower and lower
as they swept in two wide arcs to the northwest. Thus the saucer stood
not squarely on its broad base but tipped as though to empty itself of a
river winding through it from the southeast. After passing a small island
which reposed at the bottom of the saucer, the river swung from northwest
to southwest, then turned back and forth upon itself thus forming a rude
inverted letter S.

Far to the southeast, a tributary joined the larger stream. Low hills
and pastures, sloping towards the valley through which the central river
flowed; scattered shade-trees dotting the western lowlands; scrub and
brush adorning the eastern heights;—such was the Paris Basin, the Seine
River winding through it and the Marne tributary flowing from the east.

Slopes, river banks and even the river surface itself were dotted and
blotched with living forms, single and in groups, some motionless, others
shifting restlessly about; sleeping, lunching or besporting themselves as
wild animals do when in the midst of congenial surroundings.

A herd of horses was gliding swiftly along the southern slopes
overlooking the valley—sorrels, bays, chestnuts, with manes and tails
streaming behind them—all uniting to form a single moving mass of color.
Groups of long-horned cattle lined the river-banks farther below,
standing high and dry, wading in the water or swimming with all but their
heads submerged.

To the west, a score of bison grazed beneath the scattered shade-trees.
Others lay on the grass near by, chewing their cuds and gazing dreamily
into space. A tiny calf consisting of a small piece of body mounted
on four stilts, ran here and there calling “Ma-ma” and causing no
disturbance but its own noise. By some peculiar combination of sight,
smell and sound whereby cows and calves find each other without mistakes,
the bawling infant soon discovered the object of its search and its
troubles ended with a draught of home-brewed nectar, of which the fond
mother carried an abundant supply. Meanwhile the bull bison leader found
nothing to do but loll about awaiting the day’s end and whatever the
morrow might bring. But with all his cud-chewing and seeming laziness,
he kept one eye upon a burly brown bear who in the distance was poking
the stones and rotten logs about with his big paws in search of grubs and
things that bears like when honey is scarce and the berries are still
green.

In spite of their apparent lack of interest in any but their own affairs,
bison, horse, ox, bear and all frequently turned their noses windward to
sniff the air as though suspicious of its tainted odor. Grass-eaters,
even hunting-animals never trusted blood-thirsty creatures that roved in
packs—wolves, hyenas and more particularly, other strange beings beyond
the pale who walked on their hind legs and fought with sticks and stones.

As the three travellers glided down the Basin slope and neared a more
abrupt descent to the river, Pic espied a group of figures on the
bank below him, near where the river made its first sharp turn from
south to north. He said nothing of this discovery for fear of alarming
his companions; but already the Mammoth had begun to show signs of
uneasiness. His trunk had caught a strange scent below him. With each
step, his pace slackened. The Rhinoceros shared his comrade’s increasing
concern. His ears were held pricked forward to catch the sound of that
which he smelled but could not see.

Suddenly, two of the distant figures jumped up. A shout; and every figure
stood erect. A score of wondering faces stared up at the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros. A second shout followed. The figures—faces and all—dropped to
the ground and lay still.

At the first shout, Hairi gave a great bound which almost unseated his
rider; at the second, he stopped abruptly, only to move forward again as
Pic patted his cheek and spoke reassuring words to coax him on. Nearer
and nearer, they approached the prostrate figures, not one of which moved
or made a sound. When but a dozen paces distant, the Mammoth stopped
and refused to advance another step. He hung back on the shelving bank,
beneath which he could see dark figures kneeling with their faces in the
dust. His nose told him that these were Trog-men, a fact concerning which
his eyes and ears now felt some doubts, for the prone forms neither moved
nor made a sound. When eyes, ears and nose failed to agree on things,
those things had best be avoided.

To Pic, sitting astride the Mammoth’s neck, the sight of the prone
figures was astounding. Men either fought or fled in the face of danger
but never did they pretend to be asleep or dead. Why did they act so?
He saw a score of human beings grovelling in the dust. About them lay
piles of cream colored lumps, also hammer-stones and axes scattered in
confusion. He suspected treachery; but if this were an ambuscade, one
more remarkable he had never encountered.

“Can these really be men?” he asked himself. “So silent and still all;
lying upon their faces. What does it mean?”

As if in reply, one of the figures stirred. A grizzled grey head raised
itself. A pair of deep-set eyes peered up furtively at the towering
Mammoth. Hairi threw his trunk aloft and settled back. The Rhinoceros
squared his legs. The Ape Boy looked down. He saw the face of an old man
with heavy brows, sloping forehead and massive chinless jaws. The eyes
shone like those of a fanatic—of one inspired.

The patriarch’s lips moved. “The Man Mammoth!” he muttered in an awed
voice, so hushed that it sounded scarcely above a whisper. “He comes to
jar the heavens and hurl down fire. Woe to us!” He groaned and covered
his face with his hands.

Low howls and white puffs arose from the dust as his companions added
their dismal chorus.

“Arrah! What is that you say?” demanded the now thoroughly mystified Pic.
“Man Mammoth? Man and Mammoth, you mean. Tell me, Old Grey Head, is this
some of your trickery?” He raised his ax on high as he said this and
glared fiercely from one figure to another.

Low moans and white puffs again arose from the bank below him. Once more
the patriarch uncovered his face and gazed in awe at the Mammoth-head and
its human rider.

“What trickery can we poor cave-folk offer to the Man Mammoth who sees
and knows all? We but humble ourselves that he may shine upon us and
cease to ravage the land with flood and flame.”

“Agh-h,” grunted Pic. He smiled and his eyes twinkled. Now he understood.
The Cave-men mistook him for a god because he rode upon the Mammoth’s
neck. To them, he and the Elephant were one; part man, part beast—the Man
Mammoth, ruler of the sky whose smile was sunshine; lowering clouds, his
frown; and storm, his wrath. With thunder and lightning, he vented his
rage upon the earth.

“Why do you all herd here above the valley?” Pic asked in a low voice
that—to the humble cave-men—fore-shadowed clear sunny skies.

“We came to find and hammer the flints,” replied the patriarch rising to
his knees and pointing at the bank above him. “Here lie the finest in the
land.”

“Flints?” Pic leaned far over the Mammoth’s neck and looked eagerly
at the ground beneath him. He saw yellow lumps, broken flakes and
hammer-stones, in profusion. “Whoow-w!” he sucked in his breath and gazed
at them in astonishment.

He had intruded upon a colony of flint-workers. These men were merely
engaged in procuring one of life’s necessities; means for destroying
other lives to preserve their own. The bank was a chalk-ledge overlooking
the Seine. It was the center of a thriving industry—a mine and munitions
factory combined. It contained wealth more precious than gold or silver;
for to these men unfamiliar with metals, flint was the staff of life
whereby they were enabled to exist.

There it was in piles freshly extracted from the chalk, awaiting the
first manufacturing operation—splitting by the hammer-stone. Many lumps
already split, also the wax-like flakes hewn from them, lay strewn upon
the ground. Flints! and such wonderful ones too! Pic’s eyes caught the
lustre of broken flakes. Was the workmanship as fine as the material
itself? He looked at the blade of his own ax and trembled. The secret of
its making, might at that very moment be lying at his feet.

“We must know more of this. Why do you stop, clumsy beast”—these last
words were addressed to the Mammoth who showed a decided reluctance to
move closer.—“Forward. Do you fear a handful of cave-men? Agh! hurry, I
say.”

Hairi shook his head from side to side and protested with loud grunts,
but ended by descending the bank and striding among the workers and piles
of flint. At a signal from his rider, he stopped. Pic peered down between
his head and shoulder. His gaze alighted on a hide heaped with broken
flakes. The patriarch who had first spoken was kneeling beside it.

“Fling-stones,” Pic exclaimed in tones of withering scorn. “Is this your
best work? Stand up, old man and answer before I lose patience and bid
the Mammoth crush you where you lie.”

The patriarch scrambled to his feet and stood with head bowed, arms
folded across his breast; awed in spirit but heedless of bodily danger.
Pic’s heart softened.

“Is this your best work?” he asked, again pointing to the broken flakes.
“If so, it ill becomes such fine material to be so butchered. Have you
none like this?” He held out his own ax by its long wooden handle so that
the other might see.

The old man’s eyes brightened as they caught sight of the wonderful
blade. He stepped forward and stood directly beneath the Mammoth’s chin.
His arms were outstretched towards the great flint like those of a
worshipper before a shrine.

“Marvellous,” he muttered in an awed voice. “Never have I seen so fine a
blade. May I touch it, noble master?” His palms trembled as they hovered
over the object of his adoration.

“Yes, you may touch it,” replied the Ape Boy with a kindly smile; and for
an instant the ax was hidden between the old man’s hands.

“Ah, Blade of Ach Eul!” he murmured devoutly. “None can equal it. Never
will the work of us poor cave-folk equal that of the Terrace Men. We
strive in vain.”

“Well spoken,” Pic interrupted. “None can equal it. But how was it done?”
This question was delivered with such earnestness, the old man trembled.

“Of that I know nothing,” he stammered. “The Terrace Men have passed away
and their secret with them.”

“Who were the Terrace Men?” asked Pic. His voice shook even more than
that of the patriarch.

[Illustration: THE MEETING WITH THE SEINE FLINT WORKERS]

“A race of flint-workers who once lived on the high river banks—the
upper terraces,” was the answer. “But this is the Man Mammoth’s Weapon;
incomparable with the Terrace Man’s finest flint. And yet it is much the
same.” He patted the blade reverently. “But as calf’s flesh pleases the
taste more than does that of the aged bull, so does this blade of Ach Eul
shame the work of mortal hands.”

“Blade of Ach Eul—it is well worth a name. And these Terrace Men—where
may they be found?” asked Pic. “You and your fellows might learn much
from them. Agh! even my turtle-backs are more finely hammered. Not a
knife nor ax-blade in the lot—mere fling-stones; children’s’ and women’s
work.”

“They once lived on the banks of a river to the north,” the old man
replied. “But no longer do we see them or their blades. The Terrace Men
are gone and their secret with them.”

“Um—we shall see. Go on,” Pic said to the Mammoth. The latter picked his
way carefully among the prostrate men but made no effort to avoid their
flints or tools which he scattered recklessly about with his ponderous
feet.

For an instant, Pic’s eyes blazed at sight of this wanton desecration;
but another look at the small, ill-hewn fragments and he held his peace.

“Well done, good old friend,” he whispered. “Even you have no patience
with such feeble efforts,” and without deigning so much as another
glance at the cave-men or their clumsy flint-making, he urged his steed
down the bank to the river while the Woolly Rhinoceros followed close
behind.



X


Pic met more flint-workers; on the banks of the Seine, also along the
Somme River farther to the north; but it was ever the same. He saw only
small ill-hewn flakes, none of which bore signs of the Terrace Man’s
wonderful craft. Poorer handiwork Pic had never seen.

With each disappointment, he grew more and more depressed. He began to
look upon the art of the Terrace Man as a myth; a fanciful creation of
his own brain. He became moody and irritable and wished himself back in
the Vézère. Then from a solitary hunter, he learned of men who lived on
the banks of a river lying beyond the great Channel Valley to the north.
His spirits rose and he lived in hope once more. He led his two animal
friends across the Somme River, over hills and valleys to the great
Boulogne-Calais ridge or heights overlooking the broad isthmus connecting
Britain and France.

Near Boulogne, the trio descended from the heights into the valley,
across which man and beast might travel dry shod; no small convenience,
for none knew of boats or rafts or how logs might be used as transports
across the water. But the great valley was dry so the Ape Boy and his
companions passed over it with no inconvenience save from the choking
chalk-dust stirred up by their own feet. A day’s journey with a week
more added, brought them first into Britain, then through the Kentish
Downs to the London Basin. Before them, in the distance, flowed the
Thames River, winding its way leisurely towards the North Sea from the
direction of the setting sun. Such a stream were scarcely broad or swift
enough to bar the trio’s northward march. A swim to the opposite bank
meant no more than a bit of exercise calculated to make the red blood of
a Mammoth and Rhinoceros flow fast. Strangely enough neither one made
any effort to cross the river, both merely contenting themselves with
strolling along the valley’s southern border. Their behavior was suddenly
become care-free and without purpose. The cool breezes sweeping down from
the Scottish glaciers and North Sea, gave the air that life and snap
which Hairi and Wulli considered indispensable to their bodily comfort.
These hardy wanderers could make themselves at home in any country whose
food-supply and climate accorded with their standards. To them, Kent
seemed a land of charm, so now they slowed their pace and proceeded to
enjoy themselves.

Pic too found much to occupy his mind. The stepped banks or terraces of
the Thames reminded him of those he had seen lining both sides of the
Somme; the low, middle and high terraces—three successive water levels,
beginning with the highest at a time when the river was first carving
its way through the valley. And there were places where flint-workers
gathered during the spring and summer months; so when his companions
stopped to graze, he shouldered his ax and walked along the slopes
keeping a sharp lookout for those whom he wished most to see. He
was feeling a wee bit homesick and hungry too, for a sight of human
faces,—not because he felt any friendly feeling for his own kind, he
assured himself; but only from Terrace Men could he learn aught of how
blades, such as the one he bore, were so finely made. He had not gone far
when he observed a group of flint-workers on the bank below him; so down
he went to make their closer acquaintance.

They squatted on the slope with only their heads visible and faces
turned towards the river. As Pic drew nearer, their shoulders and bodies
came into view. He recognized in them, beings like himself—the race
of Moustier. His heart sank. His mind had pictured the Terrace Man as
something different. His ax,—the blade of Ach Eul—represented an ideal—a
perfection of flint-working art. The artisan must be constituted of more
than common clay. Did the genius of the Terraces stalk abroad in the
guise of such humble folk? He hoped; but something within him, foretold
bitter disappointment.

The Men of Kent were so busy with their flint-making that they paid
little attention to the approaching figure, doubtless considering it one
of their own number. Not until Pic stood amongst them did they realize
that he was a stranger. All stopped work and eyed him with disfavor. Pic
gazed boldly about him. He saw none but old men and boys. “Where are your
warriors?” he demanded.

A youth pointed eastward.

“Hunting?” Pic asked curiously; then muttered to himself: “Of course;
some must find food while the others work.”

The youth nodded civilly enough. His courtesy was due to a glimpse of the
Ape Boy’s wonderful ax.

“Have no fear; I come as a friend,” said Pic as he observed the other’s
concerned expression. “Are you Men of the Terraces?”

The youth shook his head: “No; we are cave-folk. We live among the
hills. Only in the warm season, do we come here.”

Pic sighed, took a deep breath and turned his attention to the work in
which the group was engaged. He almost dreaded to look down and see what
he most feared.

Before each artisan was a small pile of flint-lumps. Thin chips covered
the ground between each pair of feet; small, roughly-fractured flakes lay
together on one side. Pic dropped on one knee and examined the flakes.

“Are these your best work?” he asked at last in a voice that trembled. He
did not even raise his eyes as one of the men answered: “Yes, they are
the best.”

“Enough;” he still gazed dreamily at the flakes,—small, shapeless
things—but his thoughts were elsewhere. “I have failed,” he said
bitterly. “These would shame a child. The Terrace Man is not here.”

As he arose to his feet, thinking, striving to gather courage for fresh
hopes, dark figures loomed about him on all sides as though sprung from
the earth. With a startled exclamation, he raised his ax and squared
back, determined to sell his life dearly. But as he glanced behind him,
he saw how vain would be his efforts. A dozen flint-axes were held ready
to strike him down. One step forward or backward and the blades would
crush his skull.

His muscles relaxed. He lowered his weapon. His captors in turn lowered
theirs and crowded more closely about him. In a moment Pic had recovered
from his surprise and was boldly returning the fierce looks directed
upon him from all sides. Then one of his captors, who appeared to be the
leader, a giant in bulk and strength, stepped forward and eyed Pic so
threateningly that the latter shrank back with half-raised ax.

A human race more brutal the Ape Boy had never beheld. Its overhanging
brows, sloping forehead and projecting muzzle were so exaggerated that
the entire head resembled that of a huge monkey. This likeness was
increased by the monster’s broad, flat nose which was crushed in and
marred by a ragged scar extending far into one cheek. The thick body,
crooked limbs and hairy skin were even more animal-like than the hideous
head above them.

Pic took in all of these details at a glance and found them far from
reassuring. Nor—judging by his scowling face—was the Man of Kent improved
in temper at sight of the youth before him.

“Who are you?” he growled in a voice that sounded like the mouthing of a
famished wolf. Pic’s lips tightened as he returned the monster’s piercing
stare.

“A man.” He was about to add the words: “like yourself;” but withheld
them as inappropriate.

“For what are you here?” demanded the chieftain, enraged by this fearless
reply.

“I came alone, as you see me, to learn how these people made their
flints,” answered Pic, pointing to the old men and boys to whom he had
first spoken. “I thought them Terrace Men. That is why I came.”

“Terrace Men? Bah!” snarled the monster glaring fiercely at the strange
fish that lay so calmly in his net. He had expected a struggle or
cringing howls for mercy. The flint-ax would mend either; but now he held
his hand, confounded by the Ape Boy’s reply and manner and yet all the
more enraged because of his own perplexity.

“Bah!” he roared again. “May you and your Terrace Men find rest in a
lion’s stomach. We permit no strangers amongst us; therefore begone. You
may thank your good fortune that we do no worse by you;” and he ground
his teeth as though angered and disappointed at having shown such unusual
clemency.

Pic made no response. His captors shuffled back on both sides to let him
pass. As he looked into their scowling faces, he felt an overwhelming
sense of loneliness; a sudden realization that he was an outcast in a
strange land, in spite of the people of his own race gathered about him.

The brutal chieftain watched him narrowly, half hoping that by some
word or act the Ape Boy would provoke his further wrath. In this, he
was disappointed. Without a word, Pic shouldered his ax and prepared to
go his way. As the great blade flashed in the sunlight, the Man of Kent
started with amazement. So large and fine a flint, his eyes had never
seen. He looked down at the head of his own clumsy weapon, then at the
other with envious eyes.

“Hold; what have you there?” and he pointed a finger at the cause of his
sudden interest.

Pic turned, surprised by this outburst. In a moment he saw its meaning.

“This is my ax,” he replied calmly; “my father’s,—made by a man of the
Terraces;” and he held the weapon proudly aloft in his two hands.

The Kentish chieftain looked down again upon his own battle-ax, then at
the blade of Ach Eul. His teeth were bared threateningly as he strode
forward.

“You lie,” he yelled. “For now it is mine. Give it to me;” and he
stretched forth an arm like one exacting tribute from a conquered foe.

Pic fell back a step and his hands closed firmly about the haft. His lips
set themselves tightly together as he glared unabashed at the monster.
For a moment neither moved. Those about them drew in deep breaths of
wonder as they witnessed the youth’s open defiance of their leader.

“That ax,” roared the Man of Kent, withdrawing his hand and gripping his
own weapon. “Can you fight with it—you an untried boy?”

“Yes.”

“And for it?” added the monster with a fiendish hyena laugh as he thrust
his great head almost into the other’s face.

Pic’s eyes blazed like fire. His lips parted in a furious snarl.

“I have said the ax is mine,” he cried hoarsely. “No man lives who can
take it from me,” and he made ready for the clash which he now saw was
impossible to avoid.

The Kentish Men grunted noisy approval. Personal quarrels were of
frequent occurrence; blood-shed a thing to amuse and while away the
passing time. But this contest promised something unusual; better
because of its novelty—a giant versus a dwarf. Their sympathies, or
rather their brutal preference, favored the smaller contestant who faced
such odds with so little concern for his own skin. They had no love for
their chief. By the power of his arm alone had he attained a commanding
position over them. All had felt the weight of his hand and feared his
gigantic strength. That a stranger—a mere lad—dared try conclusions with
him, was enough to arouse their interest to the highest pitch. They
admired, they wondered; but the Ape Boy was clearly overmatched and that
he would put up a good fight before having his skull cracked was about
the most that could be expected. They took comfortable positions in a
semi-circle about the contestants with backs to the terrace like an
audience before a stage. Without a thought of interfering, they squatted
down to enjoy the entertainment now being served before them.

The Man of Kent leered upon the Ape Boy with such tenderness as a cat
bestows upon a mouse caught in the toils. He took fiendish relish in
prolonging his victim’s agony before applying the finishing touch. Low
murmurs arose. The spectators were growing impatient of his inaction. The
Man of Kent turned savagely upon them.

“Be quiet,” he snarled. “Would you have me treat as a man one who cannot
properly grip his ax because of his soft baby hands?”

Pic heard the insult and the hot blood surged into his face. With a bowl
of fury, he sprang nimbly forward and dealt the Man of Kent a resounding
whack across the chest with the flat of his ax.

His audience growled noisy approval and wonder, too, for a blow with the
flat blade was a warrior’s expression of deepest scorn for an unworthy
foe. They craned their heads eagerly forward and awaited Pic’s next move
with breathless interest. The chieftain roared with pain and surprised
rage. Lurching forward with a labored jump, he swung back and his blade
whizzed through the air above the other’s head. As Pic dodged, he shifted
the hold on his weapon from right to left and struck his adversary
edge-on over the right shoulder before he could recover himself.

Maddened by this wound and infuriated by the applause which greeted this
second display of skill, the Man of Kent flew into a rage terrible to
see. Pic retreated a step, dismayed by his foe’s beast-like fury and
ability to withstand punishment. Perhaps the tide of battle might have
turned against him at that moment had not a great uproar arisen among the
spectators and drawn the attention of both combatants.

On the terrace above them loomed a monster head armed with long curling
tusks. Beside it stood another and smaller head, bearing a long
sharp-pointed horn on its lowered snout. This pair on the terrace balcony
comprised a second audience of silent and amazed observers.

A great commotion ensued. Believing themselves attacked, the Men of Kent
sprang to their feet and began backing down the slope to the river. With
a parting howl of rage their chieftain made off in the same direction
while the Mammoth and Rhinoceros continued staring and wondering what it
all meant. Finding himself alone Pic mounted the terrace and joined his
friends who as yet had spoken no word nor moved a muscle.

“When did you come?” he asked. “I had no idea that you were watching us.”

“So that is how you Trog-men fight,” said the Rhinoceros with a twinkle
of his small eyes. “We saw you hit the big one twice. He made a queer
noise. Was he angry?”

“He was,” Pic replied; “very angry; and so big and strong I could not
hurt him although I struck him my hardest blow. He might have beaten me,
had not you and Hairi frightened him away.”

Wulli listened with the greatest interest. He had enjoyed watching the
fight although not fully understanding the fine points involved in an
encounter between two human beings, where stones fastened to wooden
sticks were the sole weapons employed. However he had determined in his
own mind that the Ape Boy excelled at this peculiar style and he was
therefore duly impressed.

“We might follow them—we three. They would fly before us like a flock of
crows.”

“No,” said Pic. “We have no quarrel with them. I would rather see them
our good friends.”

“Friends? Oo-wee! Hear that!” Wulli replied as his sharp ears caught the
sound of a commotion in the valley below. The three looked down.

In the distance, the Man of Kent stood at the head of his followers,
waving his ax aloft and howling defiance at the Ape Boy and his
companions. His first astonishment, as he witnessed such an unheard-of
intimacy, had given place to furious rage against all three. Not daring
to attack such a formidable combination,—Man, Mammoth and Rhinoceros—he
proceeded to relieve his injured feelings from a safe distance, with
threats and insults, none of which the trio could hear or understand.

“He is a fiend,” thought Pic. “I know that he will never forgive me. War
it is from now on.”

The truth of this remark soon became apparent. The Kentish Cave Men grew
more hostile each day. Inflamed with a desire for revenge, their fierce
leader urged his followers on and the trio found themselves the center
of a systematic and relentless persecution. Had it not been for Pic’s
constant foresight and vigilance, none of the trio could have escaped
destruction. Time and time again, he warned his friends away from hills
and crags where enemies lay hidden, awaiting their chance to overwhelm
the party with showers of stones and darts. He led them safely clear of
traps set near clumps of trees and watercourses where the tread of a
heavy foot on vine or stick would have sent a huge log or stone crashing
down. In their turn the Men of Kent redoubled their efforts, imbued with
a two-fold purpose. The Mammoth and Rhinoceros were not merely objects of
their bitter resentment, but also a great waste of fresh meat in their
living state; so they persisted with every form of attack their minds
could devise; and each time, such attempts were thwarted by the trio’s
combined might and resourcefulness.

Pic and his friends chafed restlessly under the constantly increasing
pressure to which they were subjected. When men or animals become fully
aware that they are being persistently hunted, they grow excessively
cautious and timid.

“Would that we could leave here,” said the Mammoth. “These Trog-men give
us little time to seek food and rest.”

“Would that they could leave us in peace,” sniffed the aggrieved Wulli.
“Why should we be so ill-treated? They will not stand and fight. What can
we do?”

“The fault is mine,” Pic said bitterly. “But for me, they would trouble
you and Hairi no more”; which was far from true, considering that the
Men of Kent looked upon his friends as desirable articles of food. “Why
should we stay here and be hunted to death? I have seen all that there
is to be seen of these flint-workers. I have found no Terrace Man——”

“Nor treasure,” the Mammoth interrupted.

“Not even a cave,” added Wulli.

The upshot of the matter was that all three agreed to leave the country.
The glacial summer was nearing its close and the return journey, if made
leisurely, would bring them none too soon to winter quarters in the
Vézère. So they made haste to depart from a region, once all sunshine and
promise, but now become cheerless and full of peril. The brief period of
happiness following their arrival was forgotten in the indignities now
thrust upon them. The country had welcomed them; by its inhabitants were
they now expelled. They turned their backs upon the lowlands of the great
London Basin with no fond memories of its former hospitality. The river
and terraces sank from sight behind the retiring pilgrims and the Valley
of the Thames saw them no more.



XI


After several days’ journey, the three friends entered a broad valley
bordered by low hills and gently rolling plains. This valley was too
shallow to cause Pic and his comrades any serious concern. A clear view
of the country was presented on all sides. No cliffs gave opportunity
for hidden enemies to hurl down rocks or darts. No forests confronted
them which might conceal cunningly arranged deadfalls or other traps.
The slopes were bare except for coarse grass, sedge and rank growth.
The Men of Kent seemed content that the prey for which they had striven
so long and determinedly, should escape them at last. When the trio
fled southward from the Thames Valley, they left their persecutors
behind—presumably, for not a trace of them could be seen.

Pic felt no little surprise that the retreat of himself and companions
was thus undisputed; but Hairi and Wulli showed no inclination to
worry, so the matter passed from his thoughts. His fears subsided, his
suspicions were lulled and he permitted himself a welcome feeling of
security. All things pointed to an uninterrupted journey south and
godspeed.

In the sheltered valley, the Mammoth and Rhinoceros found sufficient
fodder to satisfy their wants. But grazing operations consumed much time.
They reduced an otherwise rapid flight to a slow and orderly retreat.
However, this mattered little. No unusual dangers had appeared and
the three friends no longer considered themselves as hunted creatures
fleeing through a hostile country. Even while passing through the Kentish
Downs, they paid little attention to the narrowing, deepening valley
and the mountains rising above them on both sides. Not until they found
themselves in a narrow defile, did any one of the three realize that the
broad valley had gradually resolved itself into a deep gorge flanked by
almost perpendicular walls. This gorge terminated in a cleft or pass,
beyond which spread a vast, gently-rolling plain—the fertile lowlands
of the Kentish Weald. The pass was the sole means of reaching the open
country unless the trio saw fit to retrace their steps and climb the
valley slopes for a wide detour eastward. This latter course seemed a
needless waste of time and effort considering the end to be attained. The
straightest and shortest route was by all odds the best. It lay before
them, so they kept on.

The Mammoth and Rhinoceros began to feel cramped for space to maneuver
their big bodies. No longer did they graze their way along. They appeared
more interested in the gorge itself than the food it contained. Their
attention became devoted to scenery entirely—to the steep, forbidding
walls which hemmed them in; the rock-strewn heights above their heads and
the narrow cleft in front.

As they approached this latter, all three instinctively slowed up; just
why Pic could only imagine. What an ideal spot for—yes, for what? A wave
of apprehension suddenly swept over him. No chill wind blew down the
gorge; but his hands and feet were become quite cold. He stole a furtive
glance at his two friends. Hairi was stamping his fore-feet, flapping his
big ears and otherwise acting strangely. Wulli was turning his head from
side to side, testing the air with deep, noisy sniffs.

“This place seems to be growing too small for us,” said Pic, trying to
appear calm; “Hairi is so big, he may never get through that hole.” He
grinned a sickly grin that flashed up and died down again before the
words were out of his mouth.

“It smells queer too,—this place does,” was Wulli’s disquieting response.
“I wish we were somewhere else. Don’t you smell anything?” he suddenly
asked his giant partner.

Hairi raised his trunk and made a thorough examination. His nose-tip
swept the heights on both sides and ahead of him, like the nozzle of a
hose. He lowered it at last, looked at Wulli and nodded gravely. Both
animals came to a sudden halt.

“Why do you stop?” Pic inquired in studied surprise. “We must go on.”

“Such strange odors,” the Mammoth replied. “The smell of men——”

“Men?” Pic felt as though ants were crawling up his back.

“Oomp! Yes—men,” Hairi replied. “How strange; I thought we had left them
far behind.”

“There may be a few, hidden in a cave somewhere among the rocks,” said
Pic with a forced smile. “Have no fear.”

“A few? No, many,” snorted the Mammoth. “I smell them everywhere; on both
sides and before us. The air is rank with their foul odor.”

“It is; he says right,” Wulli added. “The Trog-men are all about us. I
smell nothing else.”

Cold sweat dampened Pic’s forehead. The moment called for a keen eye and
clear head. He stepped in the lead of the party and looked about him.
In his friends’ powers of smell and hearing he had unbounded faith. He
mistrusted the sharpness of their eyes but considered their ears and
noses infallible. He now watched the Mammoth who had raised his trunk a
second time and was pointing it to the heights on his right. The Ape Boy
looked in that direction. He dimly saw dark faces peering from behind the
rocks which lay strewn along the high ground back from the edge of the
gorge. Hairi’s trunk swung to the left;—more rocks and more faces peering
down. Pic glanced behind him in dismay. What he saw, made his heart sink.

A wall of smoke filled the valley from height to height, greedily licked
up the dry grass and sedge. Bright tongues of flame flashed from beneath.
The meadows were afire.

Pic felt like a rat caught in a trap. The blazing meadows cut off all
retreat. His enemies held the heights on both sides; but he could see
none of them in the gorge itself; none in the pass. The trio must either
go forward or retrace their steps through the wall of smoke and fire.
The latter choice gave little hope. Neither the Mammoth nor Rhinoceros
would face the things they most dreaded—red tongues and white, curling
clouds. One glimpse of the terror behind them, and they would break loose
in a wild stampede. The Ape Boy looked wildly about him. Advance or
retreat—which? He must act quickly, for his friends were becoming more
and more alarmed.

Thus far the two animals suspected nothing of the danger in their rear.
They stood cowering with fear of the threatening human odors and the
rocks which hemmed them in. In a moment, their thoughts would turn to
the valley behind; their only chance of escape; and then—

“All is clear ahead,” Pic whispered. “There lies our safety. I can
see through the cleft to where green pastures await us. Our foes lie
concealed far back upon the heights. They must come much closer if they
would stone and spear us. Move on and through before they cut us off.”

Thus encouraged, Hairi and Wulli set their great bodies in motion. Pic
led the way, fully expecting to see a rush of dark figures hurrying
to intercept them. But nothing of the sort occurred. Heads and faces
appeared in plenty from behind every rock,—but no bodies. No hoarse cries
arose amid a rush of hurrying feet. The heads craned eagerly forward and
the faces stared down at the advancing trio; but they did nothing more
and made no sound. The stillness of death was in the air. What did it all
mean?

Pic was sorely perplexed. The strange inaction of his enemies was more
terrifying than the din of battle. Perhaps he but led his friends into
some hidden death-trap. His eyes searched the pass ahead,—the jagged
walls, then the ground strewn with tree branches, fresh dirt and grass;
and as he looked, his heart leaped almost to his throat.

“Hold!” he muttered in a low, fearful voice. “Not another step or we are
lost.”

At that moment, the Mammoth turned his head to seek the meaning of a new
and terrifying odor coming from behind. He saw a wall of red tongues and
white curling clouds sweeping down upon him.

“Aree, owk, owk; run, run!” he screamed in a frenzy of fear. He and the
Rhinoceros were about to dash forward in a wild stampede, when Pic sprang
in front of him with ax upraised; his face threatening and terrible to
see.

“Stand back!” he yelled. “For your lives stand back;” and the flat of
his blade smote the uplifted trunk a resounding blow such as the great
Mammoth had never known. Hairi reared back amazed. The blow had struck
his most sensitive spot; but the insult delivered by a mere pygmy rankled
more deeply than an open wound. With a scream of rage, he raised a
ponderous fore-limb to crush the author of such an indignity, when the
Ape Boy pointed to the ground almost beneath his feet.

“See! The pit; it is there.”

The Mammoth saw and shrank back in an agony of dread. The Rhinoceros
cowered by his side. Both were terrified, stunned by this new horror.

[Illustration: “STAND BACK! FOR YOUR LIVES, STAND BACK!”]

Partly screened by branches, dirt and grass, the mouth of a great pit
yawned in the path. A few more steps and the whole party would have
trodden through its flimsy covering and disappeared into the dark
cavity below. Pic stepped to the edge and peered down. The fear of death
suddenly gripped his heart. He drew back trembling and afraid.

The pit was broad but the cleft was broader and he was small; so small
that he might crawl along one side and get safely by. But the Mammoth
and Rhinoceros must be left behind. They were huge, wonderful animals;
his friends were—enough food for a hundred mouths. Surely the Men of
Kent would be content with such a golden harvest and permit the lone Ape
Boy to escape. But his companions might escape too, something within
him said. Space remained between wall and pit for even a giant like the
Mammoth to squeeze safely past; but, after all, Hairi was too frightened
to think of such a thing and just when he most needed a clear head to
guide him.

Loud shouts sounded upon the heights. Seeing that their plot was
discovered, the Men of Kent were clambering down at top speed to reach
positions commanding the outlet of the pass and thus close this last
avenue of escape. Pic heard the shouts and knew that he must act quickly.
There was yet time. He glided along one side of the pit, then stopped and
looked back.

The Mammoth and Rhinoceros stood watching him, stupefied, panic-stricken
by the terrors about them. They were his friends; his only friends and
they had shared with him their joys and sorrows. Once they had saved
him from Grun Waugh’s terrible wrath; then in a cave, now his father’s
tomb. He remembered and felt ashamed and his heart beat strong, for the
warrior’s courage now came upon him and his fear of death was passed. He
pointed to the space between pit and rock-wall and beckoned the two great
brutes to follow him.

“Come,” he cried, “the earth is firm here. Agh, dear friends; do come
and quickly”; but they held back trembling. While he urged and they
hesitated, the Men of Kent came racing along the heights and took up
positions above the mouth of the pass. In a few moments, the rocks
swarmed with human beings with stones and darts held ready waiting for
the trio to emerge. The gorge echoed back their exultant yells; from
behind, came the roar of flames and crackling brush. Hairi and Wulli
stared helplessly at Pic. The latter came dashing back.

“Quick!” he cried. “Raise your foreleg—your trunk. Help me to climb up.”
Even in his terror, Hairi remembered. He raised his foreleg and assisted
the Ape Boy to climb astride his neck.

“Forward,” his rider sternly commanded. “And hug the wall. Go on, I tell
you; there is room to pass”; but the Mammoth stood still, quivering in
every muscle—paralyzed with fear.

Pic raised his ax—the blade of Ach Eul. “Quick; do as I say or I will
kill you,” he snarled. “Move on.”

Still trembling from head-peak to toe, the Mammoth obeyed and moved
forward. He neared the side of the pit, cautiously testing each bit
of ground with his foot and crowding hard against the rock-wall as he
advanced. The Rhinoceros followed closely on his partner’s heels. He
dared not look down for fear another glimpse of the dark hole might
shatter his already over-balanced nerves and cause him to fall in. With a
bound, the Mammoth cleared the last bit of treacherous footing and stood
before the outlet of the pass with the Rhinoceros pressed closely to his
side. Above their heads concealed from sight by the steep rock-walls,
awaited the Men of Kent brandishing their darts and stones.

“Forward,” cried Pic. “And move slowly. When we go through that opening,
do not look around or try to run. If you do, you die,” and he held his ax
on high so that the Mammoth might see and remember.

Hairi had ceased to tremble now. He was calmed, awed by his rider’s
commanding presence. His nerves reacted. He raised his head and strode
boldly to the mouth of the pass. Above swarmed his enemies awaiting his
appearance—the signal for attack; then suddenly all stood transfixed with
amazement at an unearthly sight sufficient to terrify the boldest.

From the mouth of the cleft, a huge shaggy head with long trunk and
curling tusks slowly emerged. It was surmounted by the figure of a man
bearing an upraised ax. A great hairy body followed with a smaller one
pressed closely to its side. But the awe-struck Men of Kent had neither
eyes nor thoughts for the Ape Boy, the Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros. All
remembrance of them had vanished at sight of the wonderful head and its
human rider. Every voice was hushed; every hand grasping dart or stone
remained upraised and rigid as the trio emerged into the open. The shower
of missiles threatened but did not fall as the Mammoth—now under complete
control—swept majestically on with slow and measured tread. With no
more thought of the wrath they held ready to launch upon their intended
victims, the Men of Kent stood like statues, gazing in breathless wonder
upon the Man Mammoth—sun-god and ruler of the sky. Rooted to the heights
and motionless like the shrubs about them, they watched the receding
figures grow smaller and smaller and finally disappear amid the rolling
plains and woodlands of the Kentish Weald.



XII


The Pied Raven of Dun Kirk was pied simply because his body was jet
black and his breast shone iridescent blue; then, too, he had white
wing-shoulders and wore a white cap on top of his head. He looked like
a widow but felt more like a bachelor, for he was a gentleman raven and
kept bachelor hall in a tall tree on the Flemish sand dunes.

The Pied Raven was no fisherman, even though he did love the sight, smell
and particularly the taste of fish; and in the sea to the north were the
best of fishing-grounds. He envied the River Hawk and Sea Eagle who knew
so well the habits of all finny creatures and could select the best,
fresh and squirming from the water. The Pied Raven’s tastes were every
bit as refined as the River Hawk’s, Sea Eagle’s or anybody else’s for
that matter; but he was a poor raven, or rather, poor fisherman and his
fish-diet was in accordance with his means. His means for catching fish
were extremely limited; so all he could do was beg, borrow or steal from
those more gifted than himself. Failing in all three of these methods,
he had to wait around and content himself with such leavings as the
Hawk and Eagle had no room for; and that is how the Pied Raven got into
trouble.

The River Hawk caught a big, flapping fish, selected and served to suit
his appetite to a nicety; no more, no less. After he had filled up and
flown away, the Pied Raven, who all this time was watching and awaiting
his turn, dropped down to take pot-luck. He found mostly bones and very
little fish. This was exasperating, considering the time he had spent
sitting around, so he tore loose a big back-fin and gobbled it down.

“Why is it that the River Hawk eats up all the meat and leaves me none?”
he grumbled. “I never—awr-rk”; something stuck in his throat. Alas! That
miserable back-fin had gone down the wrong way. He coughed and sputtered
and did his best to be rid of it up or down, but the fin had a long spine
and was stuck fast. He choked and gasped, his head began whirling and
he rolled in the dirt; and while lying there with a hazy notion that he
would not be a pied raven much longer, he began to see strange things.

Above him, towered a mighty giant, the largest and shaggiest he had ever
seen. Its nose reached almost to the ground. Two wonderful horns curled
and twisted from its mouth. Another marvelous creature appeared; a giant
and shaggy too but smaller than the first. It was round and fat with
stumpy legs. This giant had a short nose,—not long like the first one. A
horn stuck straight up out of it like a sharp stake.

A third giant loomed up,—smaller yet and nothing like the first two. It
squatted on its hind legs and made motions with the front ones. Its mouth
stretched so queerly from ear to ear and so pleasantly that the Pied
Raven was sure he had flown into another world. Mere earthly creatures
never made such nice faces,—certainly not.

“What a strange-looking crow!” Number Three Giant was saying. “I never
saw one with head and shoulders white. Arrah! it’s dead.”

Even in his dreams, the Pied Raven could not repress his indignation. To
be mistaken for a crow, was more than he could bear.

“I saw it kick a little,” said Giant Number Two,—the one with the
nose-horn.

“So?” The Pied Raven felt himself being lifted from the ground; but he
was growing drowsier every moment and did not care much. Something pried
his mouth open but that did not matter either. He was beyond feeling any
interest in what happened to him.

“Choked by a big fish-bone!” cried a voice, and then a pair of fingers
reached down his throat and pulled something loose that suddenly woke
him up, it hurt so like fury.

“By my old white head!” squawked the Pied Raven; but, all the same,
things stopped spinning around and he felt better. After a moment, he
found himself flat on his back, staring at the sky and beginning to think
it time to get up and go somewhere else.

“A man, a mammoth and a rhinoceros!” he said as the three giants assumed
earthly shapes; and he scrambled to his feet, a Pied Raven once more,
although a trifle the worse for wear. Giant Number Three now become a
Trog-man,—a fairly young one—held the fish-bone between the first and
second fingers of his right hand.

“Well for you we chanced to be passing this way,” he said and smiled
again.

The Pied Raven jumped. Here was a Trog-man who could talk sense. All
the rest of them he had seen, jabbered and made strange noises in their
throats. This one could make his face all sunshine too. The Pied Raven
thought him a pretty good sort.

“Well, indeed,” he rasped. “Trog-men usually throw stones at birds and
never take fish-bones from their throats. I will do as well by you if I
ever can.” He looked curiously at the group before him. “A man, a mammoth
and a rhinoceros; queer combination, that. How did you three ever come
to be together?”

“We have lost our way,” answered the Trog-man—Pic, of course. “We went
north to search for something but were forced to hurry back.”

“Searching for something?” asked the Pied Raven, cocking his head on one
side. “That sounds interesting. What can it be that you three would hunt
for together?”

“Treasure,” Hairi broke in with a most business-like air. “We did not
find it but we are glad enough to get back alive.”

“Treasure?” inquired the Pied Raven, becoming more and more interested.
“What kind?”

“That is what we wish to find out,” the Mammoth replied. “All we know is,
that somewhere in the world there is treasure buried beneath a stone in a
cave on the side of a mountain. We do not know just where to look for it.”

“Rather indefinite,” observed the Pied Raven. “Er-awk; let me think.” He
gazed thoughtfully at the ground. “Mountain, cave, stone; that may help a
little. I know of many mountains, caves and stones but none of them seem
to fit together. Awrk; I have it!” he suddenly exclaimed. “I remember a
cave on a mountain. It has a stone in the entrance. I know because I once
perched on it.”

“Where?” asked Hairi and Wulli in chorus.

“Far from here,” said the Pied Raven. “Too far for such fat animals to
walk. You will never get there.” He shook his head dubiously at the two
great beasts.

“How far?” grumbled the Mammoth who was quick to resent the slur cast
upon his figure. “I can walk farther than any crow flies.”

“Awrk-k-k! do stop calling me a crow,” squawked the Pied Raven. “I am a
raven; not a crow. Please remember that.”

“And we are large, not fat; do not forget that,” retorted the Mammoth.

“Where must we go to reach this cave?” Pic inquired. “We cannot go too
far out of our way. We must be south before the cold weather comes.”

The Pied Raven pointed his bill eastward. “It may save you time if I go
along too,” he said. “I have nothing in particular to do and would help
you who have done me a good turn.”

It was finally agreed that the Pied Raven should join the party and all
go to where the treasure supposedly lay buried in the cave-floor awaiting
their pleasure. None knew where the cave was—none but the Pied Raven.
Pic mounted the Mammoth’s neck and the bird perched in front of him on
the head-peak. Wulli trotted by the side of his partner. After some
discussion—in which the idea was suggested then abandoned of having the
Pied Raven ride on Wulli’s nose-horn and thus relieve the Mammoth of a
double burden—the expedition set forth.

From Dun Kirk, the trio—now become a quartette—moved eastward over the
Flemish sand-dunes and lowlands. Gradually the days and nights grew
colder, the country higher and more broken up by rocks, rivers and
ravines. Squirrels, woodchucks and all were busy lining their nests and
laying up stores for the oncoming winter. The winds blew sharp and bitter
and Pic was forced to bury his feet and hands deeply in the Mammoth’s
long hair to keep them warm. Without being aware of the fact and caring
less, the party passed the Belgian frontier and marched into southern
Holland and out again the same day—into western Germany. None bade them
halt. No arbitrary boundary lines prevented their travelling without
passports or other unheard-of things. Belgium, Holland, Germany and all
went to make up one big country—western Europe—where creatures might live
and go about just where they pleased.

Guided by the Pied Raven, Pic and his friends arrived at last on the
western heights overlooking the Rhine. They descended to the river and
crossed. The Mammoth acted as a ferry-boat for Pic and the Pied Raven who
climbed to the top of his shoulder hump and had a busy time of it keeping
their legs clear of the icy water. The Mammoth and Rhinoceros revelled
in breaking up the ice and breasting the cold, swift current. They were
powerful swimmers and had all the fun while the other two held their
breaths and thanked their lucky stars when safe on solid ground once more.

After crossing the river, the party passed through bedraggled groups
of trees, bordering a deep ravine, at whose bottom flowed a stream,
the Düssel. As they proceeded along the heights the ravine gradually
deepened as the limestone cliffs reared upwards on both sides. The stream
narrowed, the walls rose higher and higher and at last the trio stood on
the brink of the Neander Gorge itself.

The northern crest on which they were now placed, looked across and
upward to the southern line of cliffs, whose summit rose far above the
frozen surface of the Düssel. The Pied Raven suddenly emitted his strange
rasping cry:

“The cave is before us,” he announced so unexpectedly that his three
hearers nearly jumped out of their skins.

All came to a stop and looked up. On the opposite side of the gorge,
about fifty feet above the level on which they stood, a cavity opened
in the face of the limestone wall,—a mere hole, but one of Nature’s
landmarks built to endure for a thousand generations—the Cave of the
Neander Gorge.

“And now my work is done,” said the Pied Raven. “The mountain and cave
are there; the stone rests in the entrance. I leave them to you. Good-bye
and good-luck.”

With a bound, he was high in the sky soaring westward before any one of
the trio realized that their goal was reached and that their guide had
taken his departure.

“Strange that he chose to take his leave without seeing the treasure,”
said Pic as he watched the dark speck disappear in the distance.

“He might have helped us further,” the Mammoth sighed. “The cave is
beyond our reach. Only a bird could get up there.”

“Up, yes,” laughed Pic who had been studying the cliffs above the cave.
“But why not down? I can reach it from the top.”

The rock fell sheer and smooth from the dark hole; but above it, sharp
corners and crevices suggested the possibility of a descent from the
plateau above; a venture which appealed strongly to Pic. It was no easy
matter to reach the cave but well worth the trying.

After a brief search, he discovered a cross-cleft which made it a simple
matter for him to descend to the level of the Düssel. The stream was now
frozen over sufficiently to bear his weight. Hairi and Wulli stood still
and watched. They saw him cross the ice, moving diagonally up-stream to
where a portion of the great rock-wall had crumbled and fallen, thereby
forming a rugged incline or causeway from base to summit. Pic ascended
this causeway with no great difficulty. He reached the top, and then
proceeded downstream along the heights until he stood almost directly
over the cave some one hundred feet below him. He waved his arm and
shouted to his friends on the opposite crest; then slowly and with a
skill born of long experience, he began the perilous descent, clinging
to every projecting corner that gave him a secure hold. He held his
ax-handle between his teeth, thus leaving both arms free. To the Mammoth
and Rhinoceros, he appeared like a fly crawling down the face of the rock.

He reached the cave at last and leaped down to the threshold, ax in
hand all ready to do battle with any who might resent his visit. But no
fierce enemy leaped forth; no sound came from within. As his eyes became
accustomed to the dim inner light, he saw that the cave was a small one
and unoccupied except for a pile of something lying in one corner.

“An eagle’s nest,” he muttered. “The Mammoth was right. Only a bird would
choose such a place for his home.”

He entered the cave. The pile he had first noticed, was a mass of leaves
hollowed in the center like a large nest; but no feathers lay scattered
about,—no refuse of any kind suggesting a bird. Pic noted the absence of
such signs,—a trivial matter but disconcerting, none the less.

“What was that noise?” He raised his ax and crouched with back to the
side-wall, then laughed as he saw the cause of his alarm—a tiny stream of
water trickling through a crack to a shallow pool in the floor. “Water
dripping through the roof—nothing else,” he assured himself. Then came
another sound, a faint rustling. In a moment it ceased. “Only a bat,” and
he breathed once more.

“I seem to be imagining all sorts of absurd things,” thought Pic but the
thought failed to soothe his nerves. “All because of that old nest.”
He kneeled beside it and sniffed. The nest had a strange odor—of what
he could not say, but one fact was clear; it belonged to some animal
and not a bird. He rose to his feet. He was about to seek the platform
outside when something on the cave-floor caught his eye—something that
made his heart beat fast. There at his feet lay a handful of roots and
herbs—freshly picked.

He sank to the ground on one knee and bent low to more closely examine
these alarming objects so strangely out of place in the den of a wild
beast.

[Illustration: WITH A HOARSE CRY PIC SPRANG TO HIS FEET]

“A cave man’s home? Can it be possible?” he asked himself. As if in
reply, an almost inaudible scraping sound broke the dead stillness of the
cave, followed by the low breathing of some living thing behind him. A
dim shadow spread itself over the floor, creeping forward inch by inch
until it reached the side wall and rose slowly upward. Pic followed it
with a fascinated horror that robbed him of power to use his voice or
limbs. Gradually the grey phantom ascended the wall before his eyes and
resolved itself into the silhouetted head and shoulders of a man.

With a hoarse cry, Pic sprang to his feet. Before he could turn,
something descended upon his head with crushing force. Slowly he rolled
over in a crumpled heap. His limbs stiffened, then relaxed and his senses
flew to the winds, shutting out all sight and sound and thought of the
Mammoth and Rhinoceros anxiously awaiting on the opposite side of the
gorge.



XIII


A straggling spray of light reflected from the cliffs overlooking the
Düssel, penetrated a dark cavity in the southern limestone wall—the Cave
of the Neander Gorge. It dimly disclosed a dark mass heaped in one corner
of the cave. The mass—something lying beneath a frayed hyena-skin—was
surmounted by a large bun-shaped head, faced with gaping eye-sockets,
protruding muzzle and chinless jaws. The head seemed lifeless. It
remained cold and still, as a wasted hand, thin and nail-clawed, emerged
from under the hyena-skin and stole tremblingly upward. A pair of eyelids
fluttered in the gaping sockets as the hand encountered the cold brows
above them. The eyelids lifted and two eyes gazed up at the low roof and
dusky walls, then rolled in the direction of the cave entrance. As they
encountered the outside light, they blinked feebly and stared through the
glare in wonder at the pale blue sky and feathery clouds beyond. Then
the head turned slightly and permitted the eyes to look upon a shelf or
platform of rock, fronting the cave-mouth.

Upon the platform, sat an image which appeared out of harmony with the
lifeless things about it; nor did it resemble sky or cloud. It was the
figure of a man sitting upon a rock near the cave entrance; a man bare
of all vestment except that which covered his body from head to foot—his
own hair, thick and bristly like a boar’s. His head was inclined forward
so that only the base of the skull-cap could be seen. The latter was
of lesser girth than the huge neck which joined it to the shoulders.
And such shoulders! They and the broad back were proportionately even
more massive than the bull-like neck. That was all. The image sat with
features averted and the wondering eyes could see no more.

And then, as though sensible of something regarding it from behind, the
image moved. The great back turned slowly around and a face peered from
behind one shoulder at the figure lying on the cave-floor. As its gaze
met that of the wondering eyes, the image unfolded its limbs and stood
erect, a living man.

A man?—rather a giant; stranger from another world. The eyes staring from
the grotto had never gazed upon a more extraordinary human being. The
heavy brows so characteristic of all cave-folk, were exaggerated into
great bars of bone which transformed the deep eye-sockets into cavernous
recesses. They continued far forward from the sloping forehead like the
eaves of a roof. The skull top receded at a low angle to meet the hind
portion. The mouth was large, the lips thin, the nose prominent but
well-formed. The body and, limbs, particularly the arms and shoulders
were of tremendous size and strength.

The apparition now strode to the cave entrance whose roof barely cleared
the huge head. As it stood silhouetted against the sky, its herculean
proportions were clearly displayed. And yet in spite of his gigantic
stature the Man of the Neander Gorge was but an exaggeration of a
familiar type—the race of Moustier.

He entered the cave and bent over the figure lying there. The wondering
eyes followed his every motion as in a dream. What with the sombre
surroundings, the death-like silence and this vision of a motionless
image suddenly transformed into a living being, the eyes continued
staring as though just opened for the first time upon the marvels of an
unknown world.

Slowly the Giant’s huge hand reached down and stroked the cold
forehead,—a hand of iron and yet so soothing, the eyes drifted back to
earth and became one with the mind and substance of the body. They lost
their blank expression and stared curiously into the strange face now
bending over them. A touch of crimson warmed the sunken cheeks and the
sick man asked in a hollow voice: “Who are you?”

“A man.” The Giant’s face brightened as he answered. That touch of the
hand, the look of sympathy, were indications of certain elements which
define human character and which men alone possessed. The Cave Man of the
Neander Gorge was fierce and terrible to look upon; but all the more, a
man.

The sufferer’s eyes closed and he sighed as though content. The corners
of his mouth expanded slowly backwards towards his ears. The Giant
stared amazed; but as he looked and wondered, a warm glow arose within
his breast. His face reflected the sunshine of that smile whose like he
had never seen light the features of beast or man. It was but a grinning
mouth; and yet for the first time he gazed upon white teeth that neither
snapped nor threatened but touched a responsive chord in his own breast.

“And what strange being are you?” he asked in a deep voice. “You whose
snarl would make even a rabbit lose its fear of red jowl and gleaming
fang?”

“I?” The eyes of the sick man opened wide. His brows wrinkled as vainly
he strove to collect his thoughts. “Arrah; I do not know,” he answered
faintly. “Where am I? Why am I here?”

The Giant’s face darkened. “Ugh; that I would like to know. Did you think
to drive me from my cave? Who are you?”

“I do not know,” replied the sick man, startled by the other’s manner. “I
remember nothing but what I have seen these few passing moments.”

The Giant’s wrath subsided as he observed the invalid’s perplexity. He
even chided himself for his hasty display of temper. As the sufferer
dozed off, he resumed his seat near the cave-mouth, turning from time
to time to glance at the sleeper like a nurse awaiting the patient’s
pleasure.

This was but the awakening,—light emerging from obscurity; the return
of a mind long dead to the living body. But in that which lay upon
the cave-floor, none would now recognize the once powerful Ape Boy of
Moustier.

Long illness had wasted his muscular frame almost to a skeleton. His
head was a grinning skull with hairy parchment stretched so tightly over
its ridges and hollows, they threatened to break through. His body and
limbs were little more than hide and bone. He was dead to look upon. The
life-spark glowed feebly; but it burned. The fever had now left him,
permitting his strength to return and repair the ravages of disease. His
mind ceased to wander. It rejoined the body newly arisen from the grave
and both followed the thread of life anew.

The Giant kept his patient supplied with food and water and covered him
at night with the hyena robe. It was this latter that brought a first
message from the forgotten past. One morning as Pic raised himself on one
elbow to take his fare, his eyes fell upon the skin under which he lay.
A strange look came over his face as he ran his fingers through the long
thick fur.

“This skin?” he asked. “How came it here?”

“It came with you,” was the answer. “You wore it.”

“Yes, I remember now,” muttered Pic. “I wore it to keep warm. The air was
cold. I do not feel cold now.”

“That was long ago,” said the Giant. “The snow and ice are gone. The
birds have returned and all creatures have crawled from their holes. Buds
and green leaves brighten every bush and tree. Until their coming, you
lay as one dead. This is the first time you have awakened since my club
crashed down upon your skull——”

“You struck me?” Pic cried. “Then it was you who crept upon me from
behind—the shadow on the wall.”

“Yes it was I.” The Giant pointed to an object on the cave floor, a
bludgeon of seasoned oak, the length and thickness of his arm. “The one
blow failed to kill. I withheld the second and brought you back to life
instead.”

“Why? Men are none too gentle with those who intrude upon them, I know.”

“Nor do men of this day carry great hand-stones,” the Giant replied. “But
for it, your bones would now be whitening at the bottom of the gorge. Who
are you—a boy who comes upon me as though from the sky bearing the blade
of a race long dead—the Terrace Men—?”

“Terrace Men? Agh-h-h!” Pic’s eyes were starting from his head. His jaw
dropped until the chin touched his breast. A lump arose in his throat. He
could say no more.

“Yes, the Terrace Man’s hand-stone,” said the Giant. “The one you bore
bound to a wooden haft. Wait and I will fetch it. When you see, you will
remember.”

He entered the cave and returned in a few moments with a great
almond-shaped flint of lustrous grey—the blade of Ach Eul still bound to
its long wooden handle with strips of hide. He laid it in the Ape Boy’s
trembling hands.

“Agh; I know it now—my ax, my father’s ax made by a man of the River
Terraces.” Pic clasped the weapon to his breast while the Giant looked
curiously on. In a moment he turned to his companion with a puzzled look
upon his face.

“Hand-stone; hand-stone?” he repeated several times. “I do not
understand. Does the flint please you—as it pleases me? You spoke of
Terrace Men. What do you know of them?”

“I know of a race long dead,” the Giant replied in a voice so deep and
hollow, it seemed to arise from the earth. “A race of mighty men who
roamed along the river banks; who fought and hunted in the warm sunlight
and slept beneath the blue sky and twinkling stars. They vied with the
Mammoth, the Rhinoceros——”

“Agh! I am listening,” Pic muttered hoarsely. “Go on.”

“And other beasts,” the Giant continued. “Then”—his voice sank almost to
a whisper—“the Storm Wind descended upon them from the north. They were
mighty men—the People of the Terraces—but even their strength could not
match that of the Storm Wind. One by one they died of cold, hunger and
disease. Wild beasts set upon them in their weakness. Those who survived,
fled to the shelter of caves—gloomy holes where many sickened and died.
The others lost all remembrance of things. They sat still and stared and
snapped like wolves—and they died too. All were gone—all but one who yet
lives; here alone in a cave high above the gorge——”

“You—a Terrace Man?” cried Pic as he gazed up awe-stricken into the
Giant’s face. “Arrah, I have found you now: big, strong Man of the
Terraces, maker of wonderful flints. I have searched the world for you
and now I will learn the secret of how flints like this were made.”

The Ape Boy was now soaring in the clouds. His eyes shone with the zeal
of a fanatic, as every moment he took in more inspiration from the ax of
Ach Eul which he held closely to his breast. The Giant was speechless
with amazement. He could only listen as Pic rambled on:

“You see how large and shapely it is; the same on both edges—on both
surfaces. Such work was not done entirely with the hammer-stone. Some
other tool was used after the blank was hewn. See where the tiny chips
were removed to form the point and edges. Soon I will know how they were
struck off and the flint thinned down, when a blow however slight might
break and spoil it.”

The Giant shook his head vigorously. “You mistake,” he said. “I know
nothing of flint-working nor did any others of my tribe. We carried
hand-stones—the ones our fathers’ fathers made long before my time. They
were poignards—axes without handles. They and clubs were our weapons;
but the blades were lost or broken one by one and none knew how to
replace them. The hand-stone has long passed away. Those are dead who can
tell of its making. I never knew. I do not know now.”

Pic’s heart sank. His head fell forward upon his breast. “And so I will
never know. What is left, worth living for—to the miserable Ape Boy
hiding in a man’s skin? Nothing; not even the friends you spoke of.”

“Friends?” the Giant exclaimed. “I spoke of none. Who were they?”

Pic’s head sank yet lower. His eyes stared vacantly at his companion’s
feet.

“The Hairy Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros,” he replied.



XIV


For moments which seemed hours, Pic remained silent, staring at the
ground; and in those few moments, his remembrance of past events drifted
slowly back; his alliance with the Mammoth and Rhinoceros, his travels
and adventures with those wonderful beasts and the various incidents
leading up to his mishap in the Giant’s stronghold.

He had been very ill, his mind a blank and his body all but consumed by
wasting fever. Now he was on the mend, his brain cleared; but the Mammoth
and Rhinoceros were gone—forever.

“You spoke of the Mammoth and Rhinoceros.” The Giant was regarding him
with amazement. “Those two are animals, not men. No man has animals for
his friends. You do not remember. Your head is not yet well.”

“You are mistaken,” Pic replied with an earnestness that impressed the
other deeply. “All is well here;” he pointed to his forehead. “I have
been very ill, I know. Once I remembered nothing; but now everything
is clear. The Mammoth and Rhinoceros were my friends,—the best I ever
had—but now they have gone away; where, nobody knows.”

The Giant gulped. Never had he heard the like. Here was a man who chose
to debase himself by associating with inferior creatures and was not
ashamed to confess it. Preposterous! He found it difficult to hold his
temper.

“What matters it if a mammoth and rhinoceros are friends or not?” he
growled. “But any man who chooses to associate with them is no better
than they—a beast.”

“But I am alone,” said Pic. “That is why I chose the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros——”

“Quite right. Men cannot live alone either,” the Giant interrupted. “It
destroys something here;” he touched a finger to his forehead—“Return to
your own people before it is too late.”

“But I am an outcast, a renegade from my tribe and am not permitted to
return,” said Pic, sobered by the other’s earnestness. “I was lonely. I
met the Mammoth and Rhinoceros. They were wonderful creatures. We had
many adventures. They saved my life and I saved theirs. Men never did as
well for each other. I will give up my friends for no man.”

A low rumble sounded in the distance. The Giant looked up with a start
and stared across the gorge—at a mass of dark clouds slowly rising
above the horizon. His eyes shone with a strange light. He shivered and
trembled like a frightened child. Pic began to understand. The Giant was
afraid of the thunder-clouds. All men feared thunder and lightning.

“It makes him nervous and ill-tempered,” thought Pic. “When the clouds
pass, he will be himself again.”

Suddenly the Giant sprang to his feet and glanced behind him, listening
attentively and sniffing as animals do when they strive to catch the
scent. His club lay on the cave floor. With the stealth of a panther, he
glided to the weapon, seized it and edged nearer to the rear wall. Pic
waited in breathless suspense. He could now barely discern the Giant’s
dark figure standing with bludgeon held across his shoulders as though
awaiting the attack of some unknown enemy.

All was as quiet as death. While Pic looked on, scarcely daring to
breathe, he heard a faint scratching sound. It came from the rear wall,
low and muffled as though originating in the heart of the rock. Gradually
it grew louder, more distinct and with it, the labored breathing of some
living thing. The Giant must have heard the sounds but he made no sign,
only stood like a stone image with weapon held ready—and waiting. Pic
raised his ax and kept his eyes and ears open for something which might
break the spell and explain the scene before him.

Suddenly a loud scuffling sounded from the darkness; a fearful snarling
and growling and a gaunt, shaggy figure bounded to the entrance. The
bludgeon descended with a crash and a great wolf fell sprawling on the
ledge. Like a flash, the Giant dropped his club and dashed upon the
struggling brute. It snapped and snarled horribly as he seized it by
the scruff of the neck with his bare hands. In a twinkle the wretch was
raised aloft like a kitten. One mighty heave; and it whirled high into
space, then descended with a splash into the river below.

“A wonderful toss,” muttered Pic as the brute went spinning aloft; and he
gazed in awe upon the Giant who now stood watching him with arms folded
across his broad chest.

“Cave-wolf?” asked Pic. It seemed an absurd question, but he could think
of nothing else to say.

“Ugh; a cave-wolf,” growled the other. “I heard him coming and was
prepared to strike. Thus I kill all who intrude in my cave.” He glared at
Pic so savagely, the youth shrank back alarmed; and yet his fear failed
to silence the question that arose involuntarily to his lips:

“The wolf came from the cave. How did he get in?”

Without replying the Giant abruptly left the cave and began to ascend
the cliffs where, on one side of the cave-mouth, the steep wall was
broken by corners and crevices. This was the Giant’s stairway, his means
of ascending from the grotto to the plateau above.

Pic followed and looked on while his surly host clambered up the
rock-ladder and disappeared over the top. Once alone, he squatted upon
the cave threshold to think over the recent happenings and make his plans.

“I will leave with the next sunrise,” he determined; and as he made this
decision, he remembered the Giant’s warning: “Return to your people
before it is too late.” He felt lonely and now that the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros were gone he longed for a glimpse of his home on the Rock of
Moustier. “Perhaps you and your people have misunderstood each other,”
a low voice within him said; but the truth was he felt homesick and
now longed for human companionship. The Giant’s latest mood inspired
his mistrust. In his weakened condition, Pic fully realized his own
helplessness, even when armed with his wonderful flint-ax, the blade of
Ach Eul.

As he looked upon it, he felt that it had brought him nothing but
trouble. His search had ended in failure. True, he had at last found
a Terrace Man, only to learn that the latter knew nothing of what he
sought—the art of retouching hammered flakes. That art would never again
see the light and with that hope gone, his ambition was gone with it. His
efforts at flint-making would end now and for all time. He would return
to his people—to be a hunter and warrior and live as a man should. The
finger of scorn would no longer point at him, the Ape Boy—the little
beast without a tail, hiding in a man’s skin. He would be known as Pic,
leader of men, enemy of beasts; the Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros alone
excepted. He glowed, he smiled; for on the morrow he would be on his
way—back to his people and the Valley of the Vézère.

A dull, rumbling noise overhead disturbed Pic’s reverie. He looked
up startled and saw that the sky had become heavily overcast. Black,
threatening clouds were slowly closing the last gap of blue in the
southwest quarter. He arose to his feet and entered the cave to find
refuge from the storm-clouds that threatened at any moment to pour down
their wrath upon his head.

The rumbling sounded again. It was as though some savage beast were
growling in the sky. Pic peered into the darkness of the cavern. The
wolf had sprung from there—from where? Pic had never examined the cave
interior. His whole interest had been in sunshine and fresh air. But the
wolf had come from it and others might do the same. For some unknown
reason, the Giant had resented any questioning on the subject. The
mystery could be investigated during his absence—now.

After a moment’s wait to accustom his eyes to the darkness, Pic
groped his way to the rear wall. As his hands glided along the clammy
rock, it suddenly sank into empty space; a large hole partly covered
with a limestone slab and large enough to admit a man’s head and
shoulders. He was about to examine further when he heard a low scraping
noise—rustling—as of something moving in the heart of the rock. “Another
wolf;” he smiled grimly and raised his ax all prepared to strike—just as
the Giant had struck. The noise grew louder,—scraping, scratching, growls
and mutterings. Pic’s hair stood on end. His knees trembled. He bent down
and hastily replaced the stone slab across the opening; then tip-toed to
a far corner of the cave—his corner and bed of leaves. For an instant,
the latter rustled noisily as he made a nest for himself, then all was
quiet there except for loud breathing as of one who sleeps.

His face was turned towards the crack in the rear wall. One eye watched
the limestone slab through half-closed lids. It saw the stone thrust
gently aside. A head appeared in the opening. Two eyes—fire-specks in
the center of great black blotches—turned this way and that; towards the
cave entrance, the outside ledge and lastly the interior of the cave
itself. In a moment, they alighted upon the figure lying on the bed of
leaves. Pic’s eyes were closed. To all appearances, he was sound asleep.
The head, then shoulders and body drew themselves clear of the dark hole
and re-set the stone in place. This done, the newcomer glided to the
far corner of the cave and stood over the figure huddled in the nest of
leaves.

For Pic, this was a terrible moment. He breathed heavily—so heavily and
his heart pounded so loudly against his ribs, he dreaded less they arouse
suspicions as to the soundness of his slumber. Great was his relief when
he heard the intruder turn away towards the entrance. He opened one eye
and saw a huge, dark figure standing in the cave-mouth, peering up at the
sky. The figure was the Giant of the Neander Gorge.

The sleeper stirred, yawned audibly and rubbed his eyes, whereupon the
Giant looked around, growled and straightway resumed his sky-gazing. Pic
sat up; but he made no effort to leave his nest. He was wondering how
he could leave the grotto and reach the stairway leading to the plateau
above without being observed. His host blocked the exit. No longer did
he think to withhold his departure until morning. His plans were laid to
leave at the earliest possible moment.

He shuddered, for just then the Giant whined as though in fear and shrank
back within the cave. Pic glanced through the entrance into the world
outside. The clouds no longer moved. They hung so thick and low, it
seemed as though any moment, they might fall and fill the gorge. The air
was warm and stifling beneath the black pall overhead. It was not air;
only a dark greenish haze occasionally lighted by a momentary radiance.
The storm was at hand. All grew dark. Pic shut his eyes and tried to
forget.

A tremendous crash and a flood of dazzling light penetrated the innermost
recesses of the cave. With a cry of terror, Pic looked wildly about him.
His eyes were half-blinded by a succession of brilliant flares which
momentarily lighted up the cave-mouth and platform outside. The flares
alternated with thunderous roars which made the rock-roof tremble above
his head. Outside, the rain descended in torrents. The wind swept in
blind fury across the gorge—a black, howling madness, battering against
the southern limestone wall.

As he cowered trembling in his corner, a low, beast-like snarl fell
upon his ears—more menacing, more terrifying than the roaring tempest.
Suddenly a flash of light revealed a sight that made his hair stand on
end. The staring eyes, bared teeth and distorted features of a fiend
were seared upon his brain as with a red-hot iron.

“Men cannot live alone;” Pic remembered his companion’s recent warning;
and now he understood. No human being could long endure the companionship
of none but his own thoughts, the gloom of a cave and the cold and
darkness of winter, when even the sight of his own shadow was denied him.
The Neander Giant had gone mad.

Pic’s blood ran cold. He had no fear of the storm now. He feared nothing
but the fiend beside him. Not even the Cave Lion could have inspired
a fraction of the terror he felt at that one glimpse of the madman’s
distorted face. The Giant had warned him to leave. He must go now—at once.

He raised himself clear of his nest and felt about for his ax. His hand
found it and gripped the haft. Slowly and without a sound, he glided
towards the cave-mouth. Another moment and he would have turned the
corner to safety when suddenly a hand touched his shoulder—an iron hand
which silently bade him advance no farther. He stopped. Cold sweat broke
out all over his body. He would have shrieked but his throat could give
forth no sound. Again he tried to pass; but the hand and arm behind it
were like an iron beam which held him back. He shrank into the cave once
more and the pressure was released. No words were spoken—only low growls
and beast-like snarls. The lightning flashes increased in frequency
and force. They revealed the mad Giant standing guard in the entrance.
Pic gripped his ax with a desperate fleeting notion of closing in and
attempting to match the other’s strength with his blade of Ach Eul; but
another glimpse of the diabolical face and he faltered. Such an idea were
madness itself.

And then—he suddenly bethought himself of the opening behind the slab
in the rear wall. It was a secret passage, a tunnel communicating with
the outside world—liberty. The Wolf had come from there; the Giant too.
His despair changed to hope. He retreated to the depths of the cave. It
was but the work of a moment to find the limestone panel and push it
noiselessly aside. He dropped flat on his belly and thrust his head and
shoulders into the opening. The cold water streamed through and almost
overwhelmed him, but he paid no heed. He followed with his body, his
legs, his feet; and the cave with its mad occupant was left behind.

The passage inclined upwards. It was a crack or seam in the rock,
smoothed and enlarged by the water that had trickled through it for
untold centuries. He could progress but slowly as he lay flat on his
chest and stomach and pushed himself along with his feet and hands. The
passage-way seemed endless but he kept on upward as fast as he could
crawl. And now he was nearing his journey’s end. Every moment the path
ahead was illuminated by flashes of reflected light. He could faintly
distinguish a roaring above his head as though the thunder was welcoming
his escape from the Giant’s wrath. With a supreme effort he reached the
outlet; then shrank back appalled as his head encountered the fury of the
storm.

For an instant, he looked on, dismayed. The end of all things, appeared
at hand; then the remembrance of the cave and its mad occupant urged him
to seek the open—the lesser evil. Once more he pushed his head through
the hole. He was about to draw himself clear when something closed on one
ankle with an iron grip. A great hand held him fast. It was as though
he were chained to the rock. He heard no sound; but with that grip upon
his foot, his last chance had passed. In a panic of fear, he turned and
struck behind him with his ax. A blood-curdling yell; and the crushing
hold on his ankle relaxed. With a bound, he hurled himself clear of the
opening, stumbled and fell heavily upon his back. A huge head sprang up
behind him. A pair of hands with fingers spread and curled like eagle’s
claws, stretched over the prostrate figure. Pic groaned and shut his eyes
as the cruel talons descended to clutch his throat.

A deafening crash; a blot of dazzling flame shot down like a meteor
from the heavens, striking the madman in the very midst of his spring.
A second flash showed his great head and shoulders thrown back across
the opening. Both arms were raised aloft and the look on his face was
ghastly. Flare after flare revealed him sinking lower and lower, his
eyes protruding in a hideous death-stare as though in hatred of the
thunderbolt that had cheated him of his prey. Slowly he slid back into
the fissure while Pic looked on in fascinated horror until the now
lifeless body disappeared from sight.

For an instant, the darkness remained unbroken; then a momentary gleam
disclosed a scene of wild desolation along the storm-swept heights
overlooking the Neander Gorge. It lighted up the now empty mouth of the
fissure and the figure of a man fast disappearing in the blinding fury of
the tempest.



XV


The break of winter had just begun to heal the frost-scars and revive
the blighted vegetation of the Vézère. The broad table-lands, crags and
meadows were already casting their withered coats and preparing to don
the green garb of spring, a welcome change after the long season of cold
withering death.

A solitary figure was making its way across the meadows towards the
Vézère river. It was the figure of a man bearing over one shoulder a
flint-ax—a keen blade of lustrous grey bound to a stout wooden shaft. Pic
the Ape Boy, grown to manhood after two years of travel and adventure in
the north, was nearing his home at last.

As he reached the river and halted to gaze at the familiar scenes about
him, he became imbued with the spirit of gladness which shone from every
inanimate object, even the ordinarily cold limestone cliffs. The warm
sunlight glare reflected from rock and river, diffused through his brain
and body a sense of lazy comfort. It cast over him a spell too subtle to
resist. With a sigh of content, he stretched himself full-length upon
the grass near the river bank and gazed abstractedly at the ripples
and whirling eddies as they sped past to mingle with the waters of the
Dordogne. By degrees, his mind wandered, his eyes closed and his thoughts
relapsed into reveries, then fanciful visions.

He was alone, high upon a rock, squatting before his fire, gazing through
the smoke-wreaths. Slowly the latter gathered in volume until they were
expanded into a pair of gigantic figures—a mammoth and rhinoceros.
Other forms followed one after another—four-footed beasts of every
shape and kind until a mighty throng was assembled about him, pressing
threateningly forward. He turned to flee into his cave but it had
disappeared. In its place, stood the Hairy Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros,
their faces stern and filled with deep reproach. He averted his gaze
expecting to encounter the menacing beast-throng; but all had vanished.
In their stead, a pair of eyes flashing like red-hot coals pierced him
through and through. His brain burned as the mad stare was directed upon
him from two cavernous sockets surmounted by great bone-ridges. A sloping
forehead took shape above the eyes; an arched nose, protruding muzzle
and chinless jaw below. The face became a head mounted on bull-neck and
massive shoulders.

“Who are you and why do you come here?” Pic boldly demanded; but cold
sweat dampened his forehead and he cowered in terror, for the head was
drawing nearer and nearer, muttering low growls and gnashing its teeth
the while.

“Who am I? I was a man before I became mad. See me now. Men cannot live
alone nor can they live with animals. You have done both. The Ape Boy
will be the same as I unless”—and the voice grew deep and solemn—“he
takes heed before it is too late.”

Pic could now feel the hot breath of the Neander Giant. He endeavored to
rise and flee but his muscles would not respond. He averted his face and
strove to call for aid; but his tongue was numb and no sound came.

The rocks seemed to rise and float away. He heard voices; then a sense
of earthly things crept over him, with a change from gloom to light. He
opened his eyes and saw not one but a score of faces scowling fiercely
upon him. With a startled exclamation, he strove to rise but found
himself held fast in the grip of many hands.

“Who are you? From where do you come?” demanded a red-eyed fellow as he
threatened Pic with his upraised ax.

Overwhelmed by his rude awakening, Pic was slow to respond. A violent
kick in the side aroused him from his stupor.

“I am a man like yourself,” he hastened to reply. “Back all of you
and let me rise. I have just returned. My cave is in the high rock
overlooking the valley;” and he pointed in the direction of Moustier.

Again he attempted to stand but the hands still held him fast. The man
who had first spoken, shook his ax and snarled angrily:

“You lie; the Cave Lion lives there as we all know.” He threw back his
arms and displayed a hideous breast-scar not entirely healed. “Behold his
work! The bones of him who fared worse are scattered upon the ledge;” and
he made a horrid grimace as though not at all pleased at the recollection.

Pic saw and hesitated. In the face of such evidence, it seemed a waste of
words to parley with his captors; nevertheless he made the attempt.

“Grun Waugh may be there now,” he snarled; “but the cave is mine. Loosen
my hands, so that I may visit the Rock and drive the beast from his den.”

At this brazen insolence, every face became a picture of amazement,
changing to furious rage as its significance dawned upon all. The fierce
looks and growls of the Cave-men boded ill for Pic who now realized that
his words were neither wise nor well-chosen. He glanced curiously from
one to another. In them, he recognized human beings of his own tribe;
natives of the lower Vézère Valley, the same as he. He noted their hollow
eyes, sunken cheeks and emaciated forms. He had seen such things before;
the results of cold, hunger and disease and a spring season of fruitless
hunting. Famine had hardened every ridge and furrow and made hideous the
features of these famished men. To them, strangers were unwelcome at
best; but the sight of the newcomer’s well-rounded figure was more than
these hungry mortals could endure. One of the band bent down and smote
Pic’s cheek with his open palm.

“So we have a lion-tamer come amongst us,” he sneered. “We, your good
friends will accompany you to the Rock and learn how cave-lions are
managed.”

“To the Rock with him,” cried a voice. “The braggart shall furnish sport
for us and the Lion both, provided the beast is at home and ready for
another meal.”

Pic was jerked roughly to his feet—a vigorous young giant standing amidst
an emaciated horde. His ax—which until this moment had escaped the notice
of his captors—was now exposed to view. The man who had struck him, bent
low to secure the weapon. As his eyes caught the great blade’s lustrous
gleam, he jumped back with an astonished yell:

“The flint! Arrah! Come all and see.”

Every pair of eyes followed the outstretched arm and hand pointing to
earth—at the blade of Ach Eul lying upon the ground.

A great commotion followed as the warriors surged around their captive
for a closer view of the wonderful flint. In the excitement, Pic was
left the freedom of his limbs. He was preparing for a bold dash to
freedom when suddenly a voice bellowed from the outskirts of the group:
“Stand back, crow’s meat;” and a burly figure forced its way toward the
prisoner, thrusting aside those in front of him with no gentle hand.

All fell back and made room to let him pass. From the manner in which
they submitted to his rude buffeting, Pic knew that the chief of the
band was approaching. The burly newcomer was a man of broad shoulder
and powerful limb. In spite of his famished condition, his arm and body
muscles bulged through their drawn skin-covering and concealed all but
the joints of his big-boned frame. As he glanced curiously at Pic, then
at the ax lying upon the ground, a look of astonishment came over his
face. He bent low and clutched the wooden haft.

“None can mistake this blade,” he muttered. “How came it here?” He turned
to his prisoner. “Who are you?” he roared. “Common beasts do not go
about alone, bearing chieftains’ blades. How did you come by this flint?
Quick, answer before I stir your tongue with a burning brand.”

“I am not a chieftain,” Pic protested loudly. “But the ax is mine;
rightly won and mine to hold and fight for if need be;” then as low
growls greeted these bold words, his voice softened and became appealing.
“Hear me, you warriors,” he pleaded, glancing from one face to another.
“For three long winters, have I lived alone with the finger of scorn
pointing at me—one who would neither hunt nor fight. All men are
warriors; some are flint-workers but not one can make flints as they
should be made. I have striven to be that one. I have searched in vain
for what would make me that one; and now I know it cannot be. No longer
will I live alone nor with”—he checked himself and went on—“Now I have
returned to live as a man should. My arm is strong, seasoned for the hunt
and prepared to cross axes with any man. The Ape Boy has passed away. Pic
the——”

He got no farther. A bedlam of howls and yells rent the air:

“Death to the renegade! Arrah! Burn the Ape Boy! To the Rock; to the
Cave Lion with him! Kill; kill!” The fierce Cave-men surged about him so
furiously that no ax could be brought to bear, so much were one and all
of them hampered by the eagerness of their fellows. Above the tumult
now thundered the chieftain’s loud command: “Silence! Stand back, all of
you,” and as the howls subsided into snarls at his bidding, he stepped
forward and shook his ax-blade in Pic’s face.

“Ape Boy? Agh-h! Now we know you—friend of beasts, enemy of men. The Cave
Lion is too gentle for such as you. Back to the shelter with him,” he
roared. “No beast shall cheat the stomachs of starving men.”

In a moment, Pic was overpowered and borne to the ground. While half a
dozen of his captors held him down and pinioned his arms behind him,
others bound his wrists together with strips of hide. When he was thus
securely trussed, the Cave-men helped him to his feet; and then, with
their captive in the center, and the blade of Ach Eul borne triumphantly
on the burly chieftain’s shoulders, they began their march across the
meadows towards the overhanging cliffs bordering the valley.



XVI


The valley of the Vézère was a thick rock-bed, through which the river
had—in remote ages—carved a deep channel with almost vertical sides. In
time, the course of the stream became diverted at intervals throughout
its length. In places the limestone walls fell in or weathered away,
leaving broad rock-floors only a few feet above the normal level of
the stream. During the melting and rainy seasons, these low areas were
subject to intermittent flooding as the Vézère overflowed its banks. This
irrigation, further aided by deposition of silt or river mud, gradually
transformed the bare rock-floors into fertile meadows, covered—even
during the cold season—with fresh, sweet grass.

On the western side of the Vézère River, several miles above its junction
with the Dordogne, one of these low, grass-covered areas extended some
three miles inland, then terminated abruptly in lofty limestone cliffs.
The latter marked the valley border, a step from river lowland to high
plateau. A northwestern tributary of the Vézère formed the meadow’s
northern boundary.

This broad lowland was a region much frequented by Mousterian Cave-men,
particularly that portion of it lying directly beneath the limestone
cliffs. In one place, the massive rock-wall was deeply undercut so that
the cliff-face rose not straight upward, but inclined outward, thereby
forming an overhanging shelf or canopy protecting the ground directly
under it.

Such was the Ferrassie Rock-shelter, summer home and metropolis of the
Vézère Cave-folk. It was a human habitation, an open-air camp where men
gathered each spring to enjoy the bright, warm sunlight after a winter
season of confinement in damp and gloomy caves.

Close to the base of the cliffs and shielded from wind and rain by the
overhanging rock, burned a great fire of dead branches and unhewn logs.
The smoke therefrom curled outward and upward, clinging closely to the
shelving wall. The latter served as a broad chimney enclosed only on one
side. The wall was stained greasy black, changing to grey with increased
height, indicating that the smoke had followed the same course for an
extended period of time.

Arranged in a semi-circle about the fire and with their feet almost in
the hot ashes, squatted ten or more grizzled men and women. All sat
silent and motionless, gazing into the smoke-wreaths which curled up
the overhanging wall. They stared with dull, unseeing eyes, for their
minds had grown callous with sorrow and suffering. For them, the joys
of life had passed. They were beings, prematurely aged who should have
been but in their prime. Their bodies were little more than skin and
bone—skeletons clothed in hairy hide, and their faces were stamped with
the symbol of death—a dark patch in each hollow parchment cheek. Each
drawn face and emaciated body bore the unmistakable signs of famine and
disease—hunger-marks—which made those who wore them, hideous in face and
form.

On the outside of the group squatting about the fire and beyond the cliff
overhang, six or seven younger people, all women, sat, reclined or lay
full length about a limestone block. This block lay deeply embedded in
the soil. Its exposed part formed a table with a level top about one foot
high and a square yard in area. Its surface was scratched and worn. It
was a butcher-block where the Cave-men were wont to dismember venison,
beef or other game for convenience of handling before subjecting the raw
chunks to fire treatment. It served also as an anvil where unusually
tough flesh of aged buck, steer or other antiquary could be hammered
and softened when no better offered. Lastly, the limb bones could be
laid upon the flat stone surface and split open, thereby exposing the
marrow within. Cave-men were ever partial to marrow bones and so the
butcher-block bore the marks of long hard usage.

It was immaculate, smooth and polished as though freshly scrubbed, a
surprising condition considering that cave-men were none too particular
as regards their personal habits. But necessity rather than scruple had
driven these hungry folk to seek out and consume every scrap of fat or
flesh even to the last dried shred. The surface of the butcher-block was
licked, gnawed, bitten until no trace of refuse remained, not even the
grease veneer nor inlay of brown dried blood.

Now that spring has come at last, the Cave-folk had crawled from their
holes to gather hope and strength from the fresh air and the sun’s warm
rays. Through the long dreary winter they had remained underground,
venturing forth at rare intervals to replenish their diminishing
food-supply. Half clad in hide wrappings and with fires continually
burning near the entrance of their dwellings, they had huddled together
awaiting the return of mild weather which many would never see again.
And finally from the rock-holes where they had so long lain, ghostly
relics of once powerful men and women had crawled to gaze again upon
the sun and feel its warmth beneath the Ferrassie cliffs. The warriors
staggered out to the meadows and sought their next meal with ax, dart
and throwing-stone, leaving the old people and women behind to await the
fruits of the first hunting.

A laughing bark sounded from the outskirts of the camp. Wolves and hyenas
prowled where bones and scraps of meat were frequently cast out as refuse
or where bodies of men were conveniently placed to be cared for by these
ghoulish undertakers, after the fashion of Mousterian funerals.

The bark—a mere nothing in itself—signalled the approach of a band of
figures coming across the meadows. The figures were those of men, bearing
darts and flint-axes in their hands. In a moment, they were espied by the
women who leaped to their feet dancing and shouting: “Here they come!
The hunters are returning. What do they bring with them to fill our
stomachs?” Those about the fire left their comfortable positions to join
in welcoming the newcomers and all hobbled forth, a procession of living
skeletons to meet those who stood between them and starvation.

As they glanced wildly from man to man and saw no trace of beef or
venison, they gave vent to their bitter disappointment in loud wails—the
cries of hunger unappeased. The hunters had returned empty-handed. One
of the women, a scrawny old hag, whose eyes protruded with the stare
of madness, pushed her way into the group of men, examining each one
closely to assure herself that none bore food of any kind. From the way
all made room and the rude deference shown her, it was evident that she
was a privileged character—a creature who inspired the Cave-men’s awe.
The burly Mousterian leader sought to avoid her but she stood in his path
and blocked the way.

“No meat?” she whined. “No beef; no venison; not even a rabbit or
squirrel?”

The chieftain only shook his head and growled. The old woman was about to
make a sneering remark when she caught sight of a figure in the center
of the group—a young man of bold mien and powerful build. His hands were
held behind him but he bore no weapons. The hag singled him out, elbowing
her way through the throng until she stood before him.

“Whom have we here?” she demanded. “Where can men live and keep
themselves so well-fed and strong? Does he come to tell us of the good
hunting that has put such meat upon his bones?”

“That meat will soon come off,” the chieftain grunted. “Your eyes grow
dull, mother or you would remember your good friends. Look closer and see
if he does not resemble one of our young men—one who fancies the beasts
more than ourselves. He has changed much in several seasons but we, who
once knew him, were quick to recognize him.”

“The Ape Boy!” cried the old hag. “I did not know him at first! he has
grown so big and strong.” At that moment she perceived the thong which
bound the captive’s wrists. Her features assumed an expression of savage
cunning. She leered in his face, even as she rubbed one hand upon the
other and chuckled to herself:

“And so my young men have not returned empty-handed, after all. I had
hoped for beef or venison, but I see that they have done even better. Now
we can fill our empty stomachs and cheat the hyenas that howl about us.”

“A welcome change from bugs and willow-bark,” said one of the hunters.
“Plump and round he is, like a raccoon stuffed with winter fat.”

“Good; very good,” chuckled the old witch. “A present for your dear old
mother, eh? Too long have I lain in your filthy cave with nothing but
cold air to stir my stomach. But you shall all share alike and I ask
nothing—nothing but the heart all warm and bleeding. Quick, bring him to
the butcher-block so that he may be dressed and served without delay.”

“What, and bring the lions down upon us?” cried a voice.

All turned towards the speaker, a young woman who had suddenly appeared
from behind a bend in the cliff wall. She was gazing curiously at the
prisoner. “You know the rule as well as I,” she said boldly even as the
old hag glowered savagely upon her.

Grunts of approval sounded on all sides. Pic evinced a sudden interest
in the newcomer. He saw before him a mere girl whose wan features and
wasted body nevertheless retained much of youthful feminine grace. Her
face lacked the great hollows and bone-ridges so marked in the visages of
those about her. Pic took in these details at a glance. They pleased him;
he smiled. The girl’s face assumed an astonished expression; and then—she
smiled too. Pic could not repress the exclamation that arose to his lips.
Never before had his peculiarly human and friendly greeting been returned
in its own coin. At the sound he made, all turned upon him in surprise,
then to the cause of his outburst, only to see the eyes of both lowered
meekly to the ground and apparently without interest in the things about
them.

The burly chieftain now ended the matter with a wave of his ax.

“The girl is right,” he growled. “The rule stands even though we starve.
The day grows short. None shall taint the camp with fresh blood and draw
the night-prowling lions and hyenas upon us. Not until the first streak
of dawn, can we bring him to the butcher-block and break our long fast.”

As the sunset afterglow faded out of the western sky, the Cave-men sought
comfortable positions beneath the shelter and made ready for their
night’s rest. The prisoner was forced to lie upon the ground and his
captors then arranged themselves about him so that any move on his part
would be quickly observed. Pic submitted without a protest—not that he
had become resigned to his fate—but he deemed it wise to assume a passive
attitude and thereby dull any suspicions that might be entertained of
what was passing in his mind. His hands were tied behind him—so tightly
that his fingers were numbed and swollen; but his legs remained unbound.
None seemed to think it necessary to deprive him of the use of his legs;
nor did he feel it his duty to remind them. He heaved a deep sigh, closed
his eyes and in a few moments was—to all appearances—sound asleep.

All was now quiet in the camp except for the hard breathing of weary men
and the distant cries of night-roving creatures. One of the sleepers
stirred and raised himself on one elbow. It was Pic. His chance had come.
He gathered his legs under him and crouched low on bent knees. A twig
cracked beneath him. A shoulder moved. Its owner’s head arose and sniffed
the night air. Without a sound, Pic settled down again upon his face and
stomach and lay still. The voice of the old hag now fell like death upon
his ears.

“Up, fools,” she croaked with all the cunning of an unbalanced mind.
“Would you permit your next meal to be lost forever? The Ape Boy may
untie his bonds and escape. Some of you must lie awake and watch:” then
as nobody answered, she shook the man nearest her until the teeth rattled
in his head.

“Ugh! Be quiet mother,” protested the one thus roughly handled. “Tired
and starved bodies must have rest. I will not lie awake even though
to-night be my last sleep.”

“Nor I; and I,” grumbled several others. “Do the work yourself if you
feel that it must be done;” and with that they rolled over again and
breathed loudly.

The old hag foamed with rage.

“May you rot, every one of you, and find your night’s rest in hyena’s
stomachs,” she cried. “This Ape Boy shall not escape. I will kill him
now, even though it bring the lions upon us.”

As she groped about in the darkness for an ax wherewith to carry out her
threat, two of the men leaped to their feet and seized her arms.

“Hold,” said one of them. “Would you call upon the wild beasts to destroy
us? He is secure enough and sleeps soundly. Look and see for yourself.”

Pic’s eyes were closed. His mouth was wide open and he breathed noisily
as the three bent low and peered into his face. But even his wit was
overmatched by the old hag’s malevolent and uncanny craft.

“Fools! dullards!” she croaked. “Cannot you see that with all of our
noise, he should now be wide awake? He but makes a pretense of sleep. An
end to your trickery,” and she cuffed the prisoner’s ears.

Pic made a clumsy effort to appear as one suddenly aroused from his
slumbers. His savage tormentor looked closely into his face.

“You sleep soundly for one who has so short a time to live,” she sneered.
“But now that you are awake, we three will keep you company and watch
over every hair of your body.”

Her two companions became impatient at the thought of losing their
night’s rest but at the same time they hesitated to trust the old woman
alone with the prisoner.

“Much good that will do us,” one of them growled. “Let someone else watch
while you lie down and sleep before the limit of our patience is reached.”

An idea came suddenly to the wretched old creature’s mind.

“Arrah! I have it,” she said, climbing over those about her to one of
the sleepers who lay on the outside of the group. “Here is one who can
and shall do this night’s vigil. Those who stay at home and lie around,
need no rest. Get up and follow me.”

A slim figure rose quickly to its feet and followed along in the darkness
behind its fierce mentor. In a moment, the pair were standing over the
prisoner.

“Keep your eye on this tidbit,” directed the old hag, indicating the
captive with a well-aimed kick. “Watch him closely, for your own life
will depend upon the watching. Do you hear?”

“Yes, I hear.” Until this moment, the slim figure had made no sign. The
voice was that of the girl.

“Take care that you do not fall asleep and permit him to escape us,”
warned the old witch. “If you do and he is not here in the morning, you
must take his place on the butcher-block.”

“Let us hope he will find wings and fly away,” growled a voice. “Of the
two, I can easily make my choice.”

Loud grunts greeted this sally, showing that even these starving men were
not entirely lacking in humor. Gradually their merriment subsided, the
old hag stretched herself full length upon the ground and Pic was left to
the tender mercies of his newly-chosen guard.

He opened his eyes. The light of the rising moon reflected in the sky,
showed him the form of the girl seated by his side. Her features were
obscure. Her face was turned away, watching not him but the encircling
sleepers and in particular the old hag who rolled and tumbled about as
though in a torment of fanciful dreams.

Pic groaned inwardly. Would his jailer never weary of her task? The girl
was wide awake and alert as he could see from her attitude and poise of
head. Time was passing. If he could but free his hands, he might strike
her down, leap clear of the group and escape.

As he strained the muscles of his arms to rid himself of his torturing
bonds, a hand touched his shoulder. He ceased further effort and lay
still. The girl was bending over him. Her face brushed his elbow. He
could feel her warm breath gliding downward towards his wrists. Something
tugged at the rawhide thong—something that sniffed and panted warm, moist
respiration upon his palms. The girl was untying the knot with her teeth.

Little by little, the green leather relaxed and the blood circulated once
more through Pic’s numbed hands. The wrappings were quickly removed.
He was free. Not a word was spoken. He raised himself to a squatting
position. An ax—the blade of Ach Eul—was placed within his grasp, then a
hand patted his back and a voice whispered in his ear, one word: “Go.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he arose to his feet and with body bent
low, stepped among the sleeping men. Accidentally he touched one of them
who stirred and half awoke, whereupon the fugitive sank quickly and
silently to the ground and lay still. The moon was now climbing rapidly
above the heights, flooding the heavens with its brilliant light. Pic
became alarmed. The lifting darkness enabled him to see more clearly but
it permitted others to see as well and thereby lessened his chances of
escape. He allowed himself a brief period of inaction so that the one he
had disturbed might become quiet; then rose again and glided forward with
ax held aloft to brain the first who might awake and give the alarm. Had
a single eye opened, it might easily have seen his dark form outlined
against the sky. But no eye opened, not a sleeper stirred and he passed
among them without let or hindrance.

As he stepped clear of the last prone figure, she whom he had left
behind, remained silent, watching him steal slowly away. As he passed
into the shadow of the cliff wall, she sighed deeply and her head fell
forward upon her breast. Had Pic looked back, he might have seen the
slim figure sitting upright with head bowed like a lamb amid a pack of
blood-thirsty wolves. But he neither looked back nor saw, for already he
had rounded a bend in the wall and was gone.



XVII


Once clear of the Rock-shelter and its sleeping inmates, Pic cast about
him for the best route to complete his escape. The meadows lay before
him to the north and east—broad and free of all obstacles; therefore the
easiest way. He started toward them but as he emerged from the cliff
shadows and stood a conspicuous object in the brilliant moonlight, he
stopped.

“They will soon learn of my escape,” he thought. “I can be seen and
followed across the meadow.” No, the easiest route was not the best. He
glanced up at the cliff behind him. It could be scaled—by such as he. The
plateau with its rocks and underbrush was a labyrinth where he could hide
with little fear of being discovered. At the worst, his pursuers would be
obliged to separate into groups of two or three to ferret him out and he
could then deal with them separately. Even a dozen half-starved men would
find him no easy prey, armed as he was with the blade of Ach Eul.

He retraced his steps to the shadow of the rock-wall and glided along its
base to a point where the cliff arose almost straight upward and without
overhang. Here he climbed. At such work, Pic excelled. His flexible
hands and feet took advantage of every break in the limestone to anchor
him firmly while he pulled himself upwards with his muscular arms and
shoulders. He was a human fly crawling up an almost perpendicular wall. A
single slip of hand or feet, even a mis-shift of balance, would have sent
him crashing to the ground below. A stone dislodged and tumbling noisily
down would have betrayed him in an instant. But his head was clear, his
heart strong and his iron muscles stood him in good stead. With jaws
clenched on the haft of his ax, he forged steadily upward without a
mishap and reached the summit.

In a moment, he had scrambled to safety and was peering over the edge to
learn what might be going on in the camp below. No sound nor movement
there gave indication that his flight was known. He turned away and made
off through the underbrush until he was beyond sight or hearing of the
cliffs and therefore reasonably secure. His enemies might now awake and
follow, for all he cared. Merely to make certain, he continued his way
leisurely for some distance, then mounted a rock-pulpit which afforded
him a commanding view of the surrounding country. Here he lay down to
secure a few moments rest.

It seemed as though he had no more than closed his eyes and drifted into
dreamland when he awoke. A faint glow in the eastern sky showed that day
was breaking and that the night had reached its close. In the distance
from whence he had come, sounded a faint hum—a low, almost inaudible
droning as of angry bees. It might be the cries of wild beasts; but the
sound came from the direction of the Ferrassie shelter.

Pic yawned, stretched his limbs and chuckled softly to himself. Yes, the
Cave-men were wide awake now. They must know by this time that their
captive had made his escape. Little good would such knowledge do them. It
was amusing to consider that they were probably dashing over the meadows,
never dreaming that their prisoner had chosen so cleverly to throw them
off the scent.

He was safe. His enemies must find other means to break their fast.
There were other means, he suddenly remembered. His blood chilled at the
thought. The old hag had threatened and the time had come when she might
make her threat good. If the prisoner escaped, his jailer would be held
responsible and be compelled to take his place. Pic’s forehead wrinkled
in perplexity. Cave-men were not cannibals by nature but they must eat
the food nearest their hands or starve. A young woman’s flesh was far
preferable to that of a muscular man. The more Pic considered the
matter, the more dissatisfaction he felt with his own present security.
His enemies would waste little time pursuing him, as long as his hostage
remained in their power. The girl was theirs and would answer the purpose
even better than he. It was all very disconcerting, this turn of affairs,
just when he was congratulating himself that he had managed so well. He
paced up and down among the rocks like a caged lion, biting his lips and
beating his hands together.

The girl would be killed and eaten by her people, simply because she had
permitted him to escape and herself remain behind. She alone could take
his place in the morning’s festivities. This last notion was the one
which so disturbed his peace of mind; and yet he rebelled at the very
idea. Why should this girl cause him so much concern, simply because she
had prolonged his useless life at the expense of her own?

“Ugh,” he growled. “She must either starve or be eaten and have to die in
either case, so why not let her perish and save the others, just as she
has saved me.”

In spite of this apparently sound logic, Pic failed to convince himself
of its justice. Then, too, the girl had smiled upon him, he suddenly
remembered. It was but the faintest glimmer of a friendly greeting—but
she had smiled.

With a yell that could have been heard for miles, he leaped down from the
rock-pulpit and went bounding off through brake and thicket, over rock
and fallen tree, with the speed of the wind. The sharp rocks and thorns
tore his limbs, the vines and branches overhead bruised his head and
shoulders; but he heeded none of them. As he sped over the rock-strewn
plateau, the one thought in his mind was: would he reach the Ferrassie
shelter before it was too late? Dazed, bleeding and so exhausted he could
hardly stand, at last he burst into the open and halted on the edge of
the cliff overlooking the meadow and Mousterian camp below.

The Cave-folk were all gathered about the butcher-block. Kneeling before
it, with head bent low, was a slim figure, the sight of which together
with the dark form of a man standing over her with upraised ax, made
Pic’s blood run cold.

Putting hands to his mouth, he uttered a piercing cry that carried clear
and strong to the group below. All looked up quickly and saw him as he
stood outlined against the blue sky. A chorus of wild, unearthly yells
arose:

“The Ape Boy; there he stands! Death to him!” And high and shrill above
the tumult, rang out the screams of the old hag:

“After him, every one of you if you would live to see the next sunrise.
Seize and bring him to the block.”

The Cave-men answered with savage yells and raced to the cliff. In a
moment they were swarming upward like a pack of famine-maddened wolves.
They held their weapons between closed jaws, leaving their limbs free to
cling and climb. High above them, Pic leaned over the edge with arms held
out imploringly.

“Faster, faster, clumsy dolts,” he urged the panting men. “Will you lag
or must I throw down your next meal upon your heads?”

All paused amazed. They had expected him to turn and flee or at least
make some effort to defend himself. He surprised them by doing neither.
He had chosen his fate and was prepared to die as he had lived—with a
smile upon his lips; and then a strange thing happened.

While Pic was watching the Cave-men swarming up the cliff, he failed to
observe a figure approaching from behind him—a four-legged animal with
shaggy hide and short, curling horns. This creature was glaring at the
man. Its feet were pawing the ground. The shouts and cries infuriated it.
They sounded like a challenge to battle.

The animal was a wisent or bison, a lover of meadows and grassy plains.
For some reason and by some way unknown, it had strayed unwittingly
to the heights above the Ferrassie Rock-shelter. The Bison had become
nervous amid its unfamiliar surroundings. At sight of Pic this
nervousness increased to vexation. At sound of the other’s cries, its
wrath passed all bounds. With a loud snort, it dashed blindly forward in
a thunderous charge.

But for the warning snort, Pic would have been overwhelmed in an instant.
He glanced quickly behind him and had time only to spring nimbly to one
side. The great brute swept by so closely, its streaming locks brushed
his shoulder. Unconscious of peril and unable to check its momentum, the
doomed beast plunged to the brink of the precipice. Too late, it saw the
destruction awaiting it and reared high over the abyss in a last frantic
effort to escape death; then with a terrified bellow, down it fell. The
forelegs plunged into space and the huge body followed tumbling head over
heels in a mad death-whirl to the ground below.

The Cave-men had nearly reached the summit of the cliff when they saw
Pic suddenly step back. The next moment, a great hairy body came flying
over their heads. A loud crash; and as they gazed below, there lay a
full-grown bison quivering in the last agonies of death. All saw and
were dumbfounded. They turned to Pic who was leaning forward with arms
outstretched like one petrified as he peered down upon the brute whose
wrath he had so narrowly escaped. The evidence was clear; he had hurled
the bison down. Had he not urged them to hurry and partake of the feast?

For an instant, they stared in awe at the author of their good-fortune,
then with one accord, back they scrambled pell-mell the way they had
come. As Pic looked down he saw them leap upon the dead bison like a
pack of ravenous beasts. They howled, shrieked, screeched with joyful
anticipation as they cut and chopped the lifeless animal with their
flint-blades. In a jiffy, the hide was ripped and torn off in a dozen
gory fragments, permitting the Cave-men to set upon the carcass itself.
In the meantime, several of the women with some wits left, ran about
shouting to their companions to bring fuel and prepare the fire for the
coming feast. In a few moments the Rock-shelter was a hive of buzzing
activity. The women made ready the fire, stirring the embers and piling
on wood while the men carried great hunks of flesh and severed limbs
to the butcher-block, licking the dripping blood and meat-shreds to
momentarily ease their hunger until the feast could be prepared and
served.

Amid all this excitement and confusion, none thought of Pic. Food, food
was the one thing in their minds and naught else mattered. Here it was
and plenty of it, suddenly come between them and starvation.

The limbs and body were now dismembered; the head and offal alone
remained. The old hag dashed to the fire, waving the bison’s heart sucked
dry and bearing the imprints of her teeth. One of the men sprang to the
shaggy head and pried open the mouth.

“Stand back,” thundered a voice. “The tongue is mine,” and there stood
Pic with ax held threateningly across his shoulder. The man fell to his
knees and stretched out his arms.

“Killer of the Bison!” he shrieked in a frenzy of joy. “Tamer of Lions!”
his fellows added their exultant yells. “The tongue belongs to him. Out
with it. May the sun ever shine upon him who has this day saved us from
death.”

In a twinkle, Pic had become the man of the hour. By those who would have
rent him asunder, he now was acclaimed. The tongue was torn from the
bison head and presented to him, after which the mob hurried to the fire
to sear the meat as fast as it could be cut up and passed on from the
butcher-block.

Gradually the shouts and yells became hushed as the Cave-men huddled
about the now roaring blaze. While some dashed hither and thither like
mad things, hunting for wooden poles or spits, others wasted no time but
held the gory chunks over the flames in their bare hands. A few, less
fortunate in finding space for themselves about the fire and impatient
of delay, squatted on the outside of the group and ate their morsels raw.

The sombre gloom of the camp which had been so suddenly transformed into
a bedlam of joy, was again changed to a seething ferment of sizzling,
steaming, crackling flesh and slobbering jaws while the smell of blood
and seared meat filled the air and rose to heaven through an inferno of
black smoke and grease-fed flames.

While the Men of Ferrassie were thus enjoying themselves, gathered about
the fire, feasting and revelling, Pic sought her who had saved him and
who in her turn had so miraculously escaped death on the butcher-block.
While her people hacked and tore the dead bison, she stood aloof and took
no part. As they streamed to the great stone with their gory trophies,
she stepped back and watched the cutting and pounding with hungry eyes.
The last shreds were stripped from the carcass and the men were crowding
about the fire, leaving her unnoticed when suddenly a broad, thick-set
figure appeared at her side.

“The tongue; see; I have saved it for you. Take and eat, it is yours.”

It was Pic who spoke. He held the reeking morsel in his outstretched
hands. The girl eyed it longingly, then glanced towards the fire and
hesitated.

“I must wait,” she said timidly. “The men have not yet finished. You see
there is no place for me.”

Without a word, Pic turned and forced his way into the group, thrusting
the greedy feasters roughly aside to make room. A chorus of wild yells
greeted his arrival: “Killer of the Bison! Lion Tamer! Stand back and let
him roast his fare.”

Those nearest Pic made way while he held the great tongue over the flames
until it was well seared. This operation being completed, he left his
place by the fire and strode to the butcher-block. With the blade of his
ax, he chopped the tongue in two.

“Sit down,” he said. The girl came forward obediently and seated herself
upon the great stone. At a sign from Pic, she seized one of the severed
morsels and set upon it with her sharp teeth, all the time moaning softly
as she ate.

Pic sat down beside her and looked on. When her most pressing
hunger-pangs were satisfied, she stopped suddenly and peered up into his
face. “You do not eat. None will dispute your share. You threw the Bison
down,” and she smiled upon him.

Pic smiled in return. “But I am not hungry,” he replied. This was a fib,
for he had fasted since the previous midday and felt hollow to his toes.
The girl was not so easily deceived.

“There is plenty; we can both eat,” she said; whereupon he awaited no
second invitation but pitched in with a vim on that half of the tongue
which as yet remained untouched. From then on, the two were silent except
for the noises that cave-folk were wont to make when rending and chewing
their food. For lack of words and empty mouths to speak them, they
watched each other from the corners of their eyes.

And thus the last were served. Past winter horrors—cold, hunger and
disease—were one and all forgotten, for the Ape Boy had suddenly come
upon the Men of Ferrassie with food hurled from the sky. The Rock-shelter
was now become a horn of plenty where starving men might laugh at death
and gorge themselves to a surfeit after their long fast.



XVIII


Now that Pic was returned to the fold and his position established
among the Men of Ferrassie, he gave himself up to all the activities of
Mousterian life. With his advent, began a period of successful hunting.
Rarely did the hunters return to the rock-shelter empty-handed. What with
their never-depleted larder, the Cave-folk became strong of heart and
body; the burly chieftain grew burlier and the girl rounded out like a
plump partridge. To her Pic devoted such of his time as was not required
for his hunting; and thus he cemented their closer acquaintance. For more
than a fortnight, Pic gave himself up heart and soul to his new life
until another chapter suddenly unfolded itself. One morning he and the
men of Ferrassie were creeping along the river bank in search of game
when he caught sight of two great creatures coming towards him. He sprang
to his feet and waved his arms. At this, the pair came to a sudden halt.
For a moment they stood staring at him in wonder, then came galloping
along with loud squeals and bellows.

“The Mammoth! the Woolly Rhinoceros!” yelled the Cave-men and away they
fled like scared rabbits; all but one of them who seemed to have suddenly
lost the use of his legs and was perforce compelled to face the two great
beasts alone. Along came the pair amid a great rumbling of feet upon the
grassy meadow. Squeals, trumpets, bellows and human shouts rang out over
the lowlands to the distant heights and echoed back again as the opposing
forces clashed and in a moment the duet was become a trio—the Mammoth,
the Rhinoceros and the Ape Boy.

Oh, the joy of that reunion! Hairi jumped up and down, his ears flapped
like fans and his trunk twined about Pic’s body so tightly that the
latter was hard put to keep breath within it. Wulli’s tail rattled
vigorously and he bobbed around like a great bewhiskered shuttle as he
strove to bestow upon the Ape Boy word and act of heart-felt greeting.
The wonder is that Pic survived the twain’s ponderous exuberance but he
managed to weather the storm and after pats and hugs of his own he got
clear of the tangled mass of tusks, trunk, horn and feet and the two
animals quieted down sufficiently to hear how it was, their long-lost
companion had so unexpectedly come back to life.

Pic’s story was soon told, he being careful to delete such portions of
his adventure with the Neander Giant as might cast a shadow over the
present happy reunion. Then it was the turn of the other two to give
an account of their doings. Pic’s attention was now centered upon the
Mammoth—his neck and shoulders gridded with ragged scars, which latter
were discernible beneath thin hair and wool-patches—relics of the Spring
shedding.

“Fighting?” he inquired.

The Mammoth looked somewhat crestfallen as he answered:

“Um-m, not exactly,” whereat Wulli’s eyes twinkled, and the Mammoth
observing, added:

“Well, we both fared badly, although it all seems comical when once past
and done with.” Then in reply to Pic’s puzzled looks, he recounted his
part in the mystery:

“We saw you climb down to the cave and enter it but you never came out,
although we waited and waited until we were almost starved, for there was
almost no food to be found among the rocks. Finally we made up our minds
that you were lost to us forever, so we went away. I would have died
rather than go alone but Wulli was with me. We went away together.”

His voice trembled. He was silent for a moment gazing at his toes which
shone like great door-knobs; then he resumed:

“We rambled this way and that, eating, drinking and sleeping when we had
to and not finding much pleasure in it. We poked our noses into all sorts
of out-of-the-way places. One of them that I am going to tell about was
covered with rocks, single and in mass with scattered patches of trees
here and there. Detecting a strange odor coming from behind some of these
rocks, we went over to find out what it was.

“On nearing the place from where the odor came, we found ourselves on a
ridge with broad stones sticking up edgeways in front of us. It was too
high for us to see over but we managed to find a cleft, not large enough
to squeeze through although it gave us a glimpse of the party.”

“Party?” asked Pic.

“Yes, a party of flesh-eaters sitting around the half-eaten body of a
reindeer. All were females chatting too busily to hear or smell Wulli
and myself. They were the Leopard, Panther, Lynx and Bobcat. The Leopard
being the largest and fiercest of the four, had the most to say as well
as the choicest portions of the feast. Apparently it was she who had
killed the reindeer. We heard her remark:

“‘Yes, reindeer meat is very nice—the nicest of small game.’

“‘Small?’ her three companions pricked up their ears. Wulli and I did
too. That Leopardess was merely talking for effect.

“‘Yes, small,’ she drawled, ‘although some might say medium-sized. I had
in mind the Woolly Rhinoceros, a fairly large animal, ugly and stupid but
sweet and tender. Have none of you ever tasted one?’

“You can imagine how vexed Wulli was,” the Mammoth chuckled. “Then we
heard the Lynxess say in an awed voice: ‘No, I never ate a Rhino. They
are a bit too large for me to manage. Do you select them yourself—live
ones?’

“‘Certainly,’ replied the big cat. ‘I eat only food of my own killing.
The Rhinoceros is easy compared with the Mammoth. I find the latter much
more difficult.’

“It was now Wulli’s turn to be amused,” said the Mammoth. “I thought I
would burst with rage when he whispered, ‘Poor little elephant! I wonder
how many she eats each day.’

“‘Do you—yourself—kill all of the rhinos and elephants you eat?’ the
Bobcattess now asked most humbly.

“‘Of course; do you suppose I swallow them alive?’ the Leopardess
snarled, whereupon the Bobcattess said no more. ‘Young ones, no doubt,’
ventured the Pantheress, ‘I—’

“‘Silence,’ the Leopardess screamed in a great rage. We thought for a
moment that she was going to start a fight but just then she saw the top
of my head. The rocks did not conceal quite all of me. Without a word of
warning to her companions, she crawled away merely saying: ‘Pardon my
haste. I had forgotten that Spotty was all alone.’

“By this time, Wulli and I were both very much annoyed. We hurried around
the rocks to catch that leopardess and punish her. She sprang into a
glade and disappeared. As we followed, her companions scattered in all
directions. We had entered the woods and I had just lowered my head to
avoid colliding with a stout overhanging branch when something reached
down from above and fastened upon my shoulder hump. As I bounded forward
from the pain of it, my back was raked from nape to tail. Never was I
so enraged as at this unexpected attack. I faced about and saw a lithe
cat-like form ascending rapidly into the tree-top. It was the Leopardess
and she it was who had clawed my back as I passed beneath the limb upon
which she lay; and now I could see her safely beyond my reach and hear
her screeching scorn and derision at Wulli and myself. Some strands of my
own hair still clung to her waving paw. The sight of them irritated me
beyond measure.”

“‘We might hide,’ said Wulli. ‘When the wretch thinks that we have gone,
she will come down; then we can catch and chastise her.’

“It takes much scenery to conceal a pair like us. I did not realize this
at first. No matter how hard we tried to find cover, that wretched cat
could see us and jeered our vain efforts with insulting cat-calls. It was
exasperating.

“‘We can hide among the rocks,’ Wulli now suggested. ‘I see a cave;
something in it too. I smell it.’

“We approached the mouth of the dark hole. Wulli lowered his head and
peered into the darkness. ‘Anybody home?’ he squealed.

“A fluffy little creature resembling an oversized bobcat, came bouncing
to the entrance. At sight of us, it stood stock-still, staring at us
with big wondering eyes, then turned tail and essayed a hasty retreat to
within the sombre recesses. This last move, I prevented by hooking the
little roly-poly back with my trunk gently but firmly, whereupon it stuck
a stubby paw in one eye and screwed up its face as though about to cry.

“‘Spotty! It is the baby leopard,’ cried Wulli. ‘That is its mother in
the tree. She scratched your back.’

“‘Aha!’ I grit my teeth and took a fresh grip on the young one, so tight
a hold that Spotty yelled as though he were being killed. Back I marched
to the tree waving the young leopard triumphantly on high. To my great
chagrin, the perch which had but recently held the mother, was now
vacant.”

[Illustration: HAIRI AND THE CAVE LEOPARD]

“And so she escaped?” Pic inquired.

“Not exactly,” was the grim response. “I was looking about and wondering
what to do next when something descended upon my shoulders with terrific
force. It was the mother leopard of course. She alighted upon my back and
anchored herself with her hooked paws. The matter might have ended then
and there, had I but known. You see she merely wanted her cub. My back
smarted so that I would have been only too pleased to be rid of both of
them. Spotty put in his time scratching and biting my trunk. He got too
hot to hold so I dropped him and off he ran.”

“And the mother leopard—what did you do with her?” Pic asked.

“What could I do but run?” replied the Mammoth. “That was the only way
I could think of to shake her off. She dug her claws deep into my back
to keep from falling and that made me run all the harder. Disgraceful,
I must admit, but she was as frightened as I was. Finally I became
exhausted. As I slowed up, the Leopardess jumped and ran to cover. I let
her severely alone.”

“And Wulli—what was he doing all this time?” Pic demanded.

The Mammoth appeared greatly amused. “Come Wulli, it’s your turn now,” he
chuckled. “You might as well confess everything.”

The Rhinoceros was visibly embarrassed. “I wanted to help,” he said, “but
the Mammoth ran too fast for me. I hurried after him but soon became so
tired that I was about to give up the chase, when Crash! down I tumbled
into a deep hole. It was covered with branches so that I could not see
it, but they eased my fall and no bones were broken. The hole was too
deep for me to climb out of and so there I stayed until darkness came and
finally the light again. By that time, I was so cold, tired and hungry
I could scarcely stand. I was brooding over my misfortune, when there
sounded a low hum as of something stirring outside. The hum became cries,
then yells coming nearer and nearer. They were the voices of Trog-men.
Help was at hand. I fairly danced with joy.”

“Help indeed; what a disappointment,” Pic murmured consolingly.

“Yes, the Trog-men were coming. I could hear them plainly and I vowed to
myself that they would be my good friends henceforth and forever more. I
squealed as loudly as I could for fear they might overlook the spot and
pass me by. Their voices rang about the pit-mouth. I——”

“Oh guileless one!” Pic exclaimed bitterly. “Had you forgotten those
who hunted you beyond the great Channel Valley? These men but exulted
over their quarry the Woolly Rhinoceros caught in the trap of their own
making.”

“I did not know then what I know now,” Wulli resumed. “I never thought of
them as enemies. Only friends would be interested in a poor Rhino caught
in a deep hole; but when I saw their faces ranged above me, my mistake
dawned upon me. Every mouth was wide open with teeth bared. Every hand
bore stick or stone. I bowed my head in despair and awaited the end.”

“End?” cried Pic springing to his feet. “You are here and alive. How
could there have been an end?”

The Rhinoceros took keen relish in the dramatic effect of his recital. He
continued with exasperating deliberation:

“While awaiting the end, I thought over many events of my past life and
while thus musing, it suddenly dawned upon me that I was alone. The
pit-mouth was vacant; the Trog-men had gone.”

“Whoow! how simple,” breathed Pic, settling back upon his haunches.
“Gone? What drove them away?”

“I was alone,” Wulli continued. “For a time, all was still; then sounded
a dull thump, thump and the breaking of snow-crust. The sounds ceased
abruptly and a great shadow settled over me. I looked up and saw——”

“The Mammoth!” shouted Pic.

“Even so—the Mammoth; and—and that is about all. I was saved. Nothing
more of moment happened to us until we came here and met you.”

“But you left yourself in the pit,” Pic remonstrated. “It was too deep
for you to climb. How did you get out?”

“The Mammoth; ask him.”

Hairi now took the center of the stage to put the finishing touch on his
partner’s thrilling narrative.

“I pulled him out—like this.” Raising his trunk, the huge Elephant curled
its flexible tip around the Rhino’s horn. Securing a firm grip, he
settled back with his full weight and power. Wulli’s neck elongated like
that of a turtle. The Mammoth’s trunk stretched taut like a tow-line.
Neck and trunk held fast under the strain and in a moment, the Rhinoceros
was being dragged over the ground.

“Pulled him out? You? How wonderful!” Pic was in truth astounded by this
remarkable engineering feat. The Mammoth released his hold.

“Yes, I pulled him from the pit. And now, what next? I believe we have
told about all there is to tell.”

“All but one thing,” Wulli reminded him. “The cave and—and, you know.”

Hairi flapped his ears and wriggled like a school-girl filled with a
secret too big to hold. “There is a mountain near here,” he began in a
voice burdened with mystery. “High upon the mountain is a cave; in the
cave, is——”

“Treasure,” replied Pic, suddenly stirred by the news. “Where is this
cave?”

“Up the river,” answered the Mammoth. “The mountain is too high for
either Wulli or me to climb. We need you to help us.”

“Did you see the treasure?”

“No, but we are sure it is there.”

“Ugh!” grunted Pic; but he felt ripe for a lark and so followed his
friends without further argument.



XIX


The three friends crossed a stream which flowed into the Vézère from the
west and continued up the border of the valley, over meadow and rock-land
and through almost impenetrable thickets. Finally the Mammoth halted and
gazed at the limestone cliffs above his head.

“This is the place,” he said. “If you look closely, you will see a dark
hole in the rock.”

Pic looked and saw. His curiosity rose to a high pitch. “Wait here while
I climb up,” he directed and then set his ax-handle between his teeth.

“Ha-ha, wa-ho!” laughed a voice from on high.

Hairi and Wulli jumped. Pic gazed along the face of the cliffs.

“What was that? It sounded like a man’s voice. Perhaps a man is in the
cave.”

All three held still and listened, but the cry was not repeated.

Pic again made ready to ascend. He gripped his ax between his jaws and
started off.

The approach to the cave was but a pile of broken rocks and easily
scaled—particularly by one inured to ascending almost perpendicular
walls; and so Pic made rapid headway to the top. As he neared the cave, a
foul odor greeted his none too sensitive nostrils. The rocks were strewn
with freshly-gnawed bones.

“The owner of that grotto must be a big meat-eater,” he thought as he
examined the wreckage. “And such mighty jaws.” Some of the big limb-bones
were bitten in two. One in particular, a bison thigh, was minus the lower
end. It had been chewed off, as the tooth-marks plainly showed.

“Ha-ha,” the uncanny laugh rang out once more. Pic braced his feet and
stood on the defensive. A hideous face leered down upon him from the
cave-mouth. Another and yet others crowded forward from behind until a
dozen or more big-eared heads were gathered awaiting his coming.

Pic lowered his ax and laughed back: “Ha-ha;” but he was wise and
advanced no farther. He knew these creatures well enough and now felt
ashamed because they had so startled him. The cave was a den of hyenas;
cowards at heart except when at home as now where they were fully
prepared to fight any and all intruders.

There was nothing left for Pic but to go back and rejoin his friends.
This he proceeded to do without delay. When the Mammoth and Rhinoceros
became advised of how matters stood, they were much disturbed.

“Why should a few hyenas frighten you?” Wulli snorted in disgust. “Only
yesterday I walked close by a whole pack of them.”

“Were they in their cave?”

“No—out in the meadow eating a dead ox,” replied the Rhinoceros.

“That is different,” said Pic. “Now they are at home. You might go up
yourself and drive them out if you can.”

Wulli glanced up the slope and cocked his head thoughtfully. Such a
climb would more than tax his fullest powers. “Hyenas never stay at home
nights,” the Mammoth now remarked. “If we wait here until dark, they will
come out; then you”—looking at Pic—“can climb up and find the treasure.”

This sounded reasonable, so the three waited. The hours dragged slowly by
and it seemed as though night would never come; but it did, of course.
As the sun finally sank behind the cliffs, Pic and his companions saw
dark figures emerge from the cave, one by one, and seat themselves on the
rocks about the entrance. The brutes laughed and growled noisily but not
a single one of them showed any inclination to descend.

“They will not come down while we remain here,” said Pic as his comrades
began to stamp their feet and show other signs of impatience. “They do
not need to see; they smell us. Hyenas have sharper noses than any other
animals I know of.”

“Particularly for dead things,” said the Mammoth.

“And sick ones, too,” the Rhinoceros added. “Once when I had a sore on
my hind leg, I thought they never would stop following me around; nor
did they until I was well again. I have seen droves of them trailing
after sick animals that they could have killed without trouble, had they
courage and sense enough to do it. One cannot have a tooth-ache but these
beasts will soon know of it.”

“If you were only sick now, you might persuade the lot of them to come
down and follow you,” said the Mammoth. “How is your health at this
moment?”

“Good,” Wulli was obliged to admit. Hairi despaired.

“He might only pretend to be sick,” Pic suggested. “Perhaps the hyenas
would not know the difference.”

“I am willing to try anything,” said the Rhinoceros. “What shall I do and
how shall I do it?”

In a few moments, Pic mapped out a plan of strategy as follows: He
and Hairi would withdraw and hide somewhere within earshot while the
Rhinoceros remained where he was. At a pre-arranged signal—the caw of a
crow—Wulli was to feign mortal illness. The details and manner of so
doing would be left to him. However it was important that he drag himself
down the valley and draw the hyenas after him. In the meantime, Pic would
steal back, enter the empty cave and secure the treasure. It sounded
simple. All three conspirators were confident of success. Wulli, the star
performer was the most impatient to begin.

“Be sure to act as though you were terribly ill,” were Pic’s final
instructions. “The sicker you seem, the faster will they follow. Groan,
squeal, make all the noise you can; the louder the better. Now if we are
all agreeable, let us begin.”

Pic and Hairi thereupon marched off in the darkness making all of the
noise they could, so that the hyenas would know of their departure. The
Rhinoceros was left behind. After waiting for several minutes,—which
seemed to him, hours—the night silence was broken by a distant cry—the
caw of a crow. At the sound, Wulli emitted a piercing wail and followed
it with loud, deep groans. In a moment, the rocks above him bustled with
activity—snarls, growls and the clatter of clawed feet. The hyenas were
descending the slope. Pic’s clever scheme was bringing quick returns.

As he saw the dark figures coming towards him, Wulli set himself in
motion; staggering, reeling, stumbling along the foot of the cliffs
and ever continuing to vent his bodily anguish with piteous groans and
squeals.

A mass of dark figures streamed down the slope to the valley and followed
after him. Their ears told them that a fat rhinoceros could be had for
the taking—a terribly sick rhinoceros or they were very much mistaken.
Having no doubts about the matter and not suspecting any double-dealing,
they trailed leisurely after him like a flock of sheep. They were in no
particular hurry. Judging from the cries they heard, the Rhinoceros would
be in proper condition for them within a reasonably short time.

For some distance, the forlorn procession continued in this manner. Only
Wulli’s despairing cries broke the stillness of the night. “They surely
must be far enough from that cave now,” he said to himself. “Oo-wee; it
is about time to stop. I wonder how long I am supposed to entertain these
brutes.”

He selected a spot at the base of the cliffs where he could set his back
to the rock and have foes to watch on three sides only; then flopped
down heavily upon his haunches and groaned. The hyenas squatted in a
semi-circle about him. Apparently the artful Wulli now observed them for
the first time. “Will any of you help me,” he wailed. “Oo-wee! I am so
sick! Cannot you see?”

“Are you too sick to fight?” inquired a sympathetic voice.

“Not quite,” replied the Rhinoceros cautiously. “I can still poke with my
horn a bit; but I fear I am going to die. My insides hurt terribly. They
have not held food for a week. Please stay with me,” he whined piteously.

A chorus of rude “Ha-has” greeted this touching appeal. “Trust us to
stay,” growled one of the brutes nearest him. “We will be with you to the
end; then you can be with us.”

At this merry quip, all ha-haed again.

Wulli began to weary of his task. Acting was not his specialty;
furthermore he was growing tired and sleepy. He closed his eyes and
nodded. The hyenas crowded up closer, thinking their turn was coming,
whereupon the Rhinoceros was compelled to bestir himself with his moaning
and groaning until they fell back to their proper places.

They were queer, uncanny brutes—these hyenas. Their stock of patience
seemed inexhaustible. They could sit around and wait all night if
necessary. The idea of attacking a full-grown living rhinoceros was
contrary to their training. No hurry at all, but it behooved Wulli to
keep things moving.

[Illustration: THE TIME CAME WHEN WULLI FAILED TO RESPOND]

The hours passed. For the Rhinoceros, they were an eternity of tortuous
effort to keep awake and play his part. Time and time again, his eyes
closed, his head drooped and the hyenas moved up closer; and each time he
came to with a start on sensing the nearness of his ghoulish visitors.
Then his despairing cries took a fresh spurt and the hyenas backed off,
only to return when he again became quiet.

But the time finally came when Wulli failed to respond. His admirers
crowded forward, amazed at his wonderful hold on life. His cries were
stilled so they hitched up closer, discreetly refraining from any
unseemly haste. They could hear his hard breathing and knew him to
be still alive although the end must be very near. For such a sick
rhinoceros, he had lasted unusually long, they thought; not that they
felt impatient; but even a second must not be wasted when once it was
time to commence.

One of them—a coarse, unmannered individual without proper hyena
training—reached out and tried his jaws on the Rhino’s rump. It was not a
real bite—a mere touch of the teeth; but his fellows resented this taking
an unfair advantage and growled angrily. Even these sounds failed to
arouse Wulli. Things were looking dark for him. Even hyenas had limits.
One and all crowded up closely with their noses touching those portions
of his body on which they planned to begin operations—and still, he slept
on.

Suddenly the hyenas pricked up their ears. The faint crashing of brush
and thump of ponderous feet could be heard coming up the valley. All
arose and slunk slowly away in the opposite direction for a score of
paces and then sat down again. Their eyes accustomed to the darkness,
made out a great, towering figure coming rapidly towards them.

The newcomer was the Mammoth. With his two friends gone about their
business and himself wearied by his long wait, he had followed the
Rhinoceros and come upon him and the hyenas in the nick of time.

Suddenly he perceived a dark mass, half-seated, half-lying on the ground.
His heart almost stopped beating. He recognized his partner’s form and
was filled with sinister foreboding. He was in the presence of death. At
that moment, Wulli heaved his fat sides, uttered a deep sigh and began
to snore. Hairi breathed again. He recognized the symptoms. His friend
merely slept.

Having thus assured himself that no harm had come to the Rhinoceros and
that he was only exhausted, the Mammoth lay down beside him to secure his
own night’s rest. Undecided just what course to pursue and unwilling as
yet to give up all hope, the hyenas seated themselves in a semi-circle
about the pair and waited.



XX


After allowing Wulli ample time to decoy the hyenas a safe distance from
their stronghold, Pic left the Mammoth to his own devices and set about
to carry out his portion of the programme.

He reached the foot of the slope, ascended part way and paused. No dark
forms appeared to mock him with their hideous laughter; so he went on
until he reached the cave. No sound issued from within; only foul odors
which in themselves were enough to repel any less determined invader than
he. The hyenas were gone and now he had the place all to himself. So far,
so good; he stepped inside.

The darkness was almost impenetrable so he was obliged to depend upon his
sense of touch, groping about the floor with his hands and feet. Bones,
bones, everywhere; but no stone. He searched about the entrance, then
along the side-walls and finally the rear of the cave, carefully covering
every inch of space; but without success. He repeated this performance;
going over the ground a second time with the utmost care. Failure again;
the stone was nowhere to be found nor the treasure which must be lying
beneath it.

Pic’s patience was ebbing fast. He had begun this adventure in high
spirits but as his quest yet remained barren of results, he grew fearful
that it must soon end in total failure.

“My father would not have lied to me,” he strove to reassure himself.
“Perhaps the stone has been accidentally removed. The treasure if it lies
buried here, must be somewhere near the entrance.”

This last thought aroused his fading hopes and he resumed his search
along new lines, chopping the dirt floor with his ax until not a spot
near the cave-mouth remained untouched. His efforts were of no avail.
Neither stone nor treasure came to light. This was the wrong cave.

Nothing remained to be done but leave and rejoin the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros. It suddenly occurred to him that it was high time he was so
doing. Night was drawing to a close and the hyenas would soon return. He
stepped to the cave-mouth, then as quickly stepped back again at sight of
some animals coming up the valley. His foot encountered an obstacle. His
ax flew from his hand and he fell heavily upon its upturned edge.

A sharp pain shot through the rear of his thigh where the keen flint had
inflicted a deep gash. He was up again in a moment, clutching the wound
with one hand to stop the flow of blood. His injury although painful was
not disabling. The hyenas were returning and it was necessary—for his own
safety—that he be not caught intruding in their den.

He descended the slope with all possible haste, leaving a trail of
blood-stains on the rocks behind him. He arrived at the foot of the slope
none too soon. The hyenas were but a few paces distant. They came on
growling and sniffing the air. Pic raised his ax and prepared to defend
himself; whereupon they held back and showed no intention of proceeding
further.

Pic retreated a step; the hyenas followed. He took several more steps and
the foul beasts kept pace with him; halting when he halted; advancing
as he retreated, threatening but ever hesitating to close in. None of
them showed any interest in the cave. Not one climbed up the slope. It
might be time to go home; but they were hungry. They smelled blood in the
air and on the ground. Pic’s wound was not a dangerous one, but it gave
promise; the odor of blood was alluring and so the hyenas followed. The
Rhinoceros had proven a grievous disappointment; but now the scent of an
injured man filled them with renewed hope.

Pic’s position was becoming decidedly unpleasant. He was being hounded
by a pack of ferocious brutes who dared not attack him openly but who
were prepared to take advantage of any opportunity offered them. He made
off up the valley and the hyenas trailed behind at a respectful distance.

Their uncanny attention and particularly their persistence filled him
with growing alarm. He was beginning to feel weary and faint; but to
lie down; to lose his senses even for a few moments, meant death. His
enemies were now gradually closing in; behind and on both sides. If they
kept on, he would soon be completely surrounded. He must seek refuge
among the rocks, in a cave or some place where he could defend himself
without danger of attack from the rear. He scanned the cliffs—and there
before him loomed a great rock which thrust its rugged flanks far into
the valley. His heart quickened with renewed hope. It was the Rock of
Moustier.

“Once I reach the grotto, I can make a stand against these beasts,” he
encouraged himself; “unless”—and his spirits fell again like lead—“the
Lion is there.”

However he must take his chance on that score. Things could not long
continue as they were. A night of fruitless tramping up and down the
valley was rapidly driving his enemies to desperation. Hyenas might be
patient but even their patience could not forever endure the protests of
empty stomachs. They quickened their pace and pressed on more closely.
Some of them grew bold enough to walk ahead of him on either side.

The party drew up before the base of Moustier. Pic took a deep breath,
grit his teeth and began the ascent. The hyenas hesitated, then followed
after him. As he neared the middle terrace and came within sight of
the grotto, he paused. For him, this was the turning-point—a situation
fraught with fearful consequence. If the Lion were at home, he was
lost—caught between two fires and hopelessly overmatched; but if the cave
were unoccupied, he could make his stand in the entrance and fight off
those who trailed behind him. All depended upon whether the grotto was or
was not now occupied by its fierce tenant.

While he hesitated, one of his trackers, a huge beast with a
ghoul-grinning face, lunged forward and snapped at his wounded limb,
so closely that Pic felt the brute’s hot fetid breath. He turned like
a flash just as the hyena sprang upon him a second time. A quick
swing-back; and the blade of Ach Eul descended in a wide arc with all the
power of arm and shoulder behind it. A terrible howl and the brute fell
crashing down the slope with half of the flint buried in his skull. The
other half and handle yet remained in Pic’s grasp; but the blade of Ach
Eul was lost forever—shattered, destroyed by the violence of the blow.

Its owner gazed at the broken ax in dismay. He stood defenceless—armed
only with a flimsy stick. Discarding his now useless weapon, he seized a
jagged rock and raised it above his head, just as the other hyenas turned
tail and scrambled down the steep slope after their stricken comrade.
In a few moments, Pic heard them growling and snarling horribly as they
fought and struggled over the dead body. Then sounded the ripping and
tearing of flesh, followed by a more subdued clatter as of snapping and
slopping jaws.

Pic was left alone. Below him, his enemies were devouring the one of
their number he had slain. Now for the Cave Lion. With the rock still
raised above his head, he took a last step upward and stood upon the
platform fronting the grotto. No response came from within—no low growls
nor angry snarls. He could see beyond the entrance and make out the
interior, free of dark form and fiery eyes. The Lion was not inside. Pic
glanced fearfully about him, then glided to the cave-mouth. It exuded
no foul odor common to dens habitated by beasts of prey. The place was
untenanted; and from all appearances it had been so for a considerable
time.

Pic breathed more freely. Nothing was to be feared at the moment from
the Lion. After assuring himself on that point, he stole across the
rock-platform and peered down at the hideous group below. Already the
dead hyena was but a framework of white bones and his fellows were
straggling away down the valley. He returned to the cave and stepped
boldly within.

Apparently the Lion had abandoned his winter quarters at the approach
of Spring. His nest remained as he left it—a broad, shallow depression
scooped from the floor. The brute had clawed out the dirt to the bare
rock leaving the debris piled around the sides, thus forming a crater or
enclosed receptacle shaped to his curled form. Its sides were covered
with spiders’ webs and fungus growth. A single mushroom sprouted from the
bottom—from the rock laid bare by the Lion’s claws. Pic looked curiously
at this mushroom which could sprout from the hard limestone. He sank to
his knees and bent low to examine it.

The stone from which it grew was not limestone but granite—a material
foreign to the surrounding rock—of substance unlike that composing the
cave-walls and roof; furthermore, the mushroom grew not from the stone
but from a crack extended around it. The crack was filled with dirt and
the mushroom sprang from the dirt.

Pic gazed thoughtfully at the mushroom, the dirt-filled crack and the
granite stone. How did these three come there? Answer: because of the
stone itself and no other reason; because of a stone in the floor—near
the entrance—of a cave—on a mountain.

Pic trembled as this chain of circumstances ran through his mind. He
reached down with shaking hand and scraped out the dirt which filled the
encircling crack.

In a short time he had deepened it sufficiently to insert his fingers.
One mighty heave—the stone yielded and came free. He raised it from the
depression and tossed it to one side.

The hollow in which the stone had lain embedded, was filled with dirt.
Pic set about to remove this by loosening and scraping it out with his
fingers. While so doing, his knuckles encountered something hard and
sharp. He pried the dirt from around the object, plucked it forth and
held it to the light.

The object was a large flint-blade, flaked and chipped with edges so
straight and keen, Pic could only stare and marvel. His experienced eye
noted not the large flaking but the fine marginal chipping which gave the
flint its finely-finished lines. It was a counterpart—a duplicate of his
own ax so recently destroyed—the blade of Ach Eul.

Pic’s breath came loud and fast. The hot blood mounted to his temples.
He set the flint carefully down beside him and turned once more to the
hollow from whence it came. The dirt was soft and easily removed with his
fingers. The ground beneath where the stone had lain, was a cavity filled
with loose earth—and other objects as he discovered when once the loose
material was removed.

The objects were flints—similar in form and finish to the first. The
cavity was filled with them. He brought them forth one by one until he
had secured more than could be counted upon the fingers of his two hands.
Further search disclosed the cavity’s hard bottom but no more flints;
nothing but a piece of bone.

“Part of the Cave Lion’s fare,” thought Pic. “It shows his tooth-marks
and where he has licked it clean and smooth.” He was about to cast it
aside, then checked the impulse and set it on the rock beside him where
it soon passed from his thoughts. He turned again to the flints. The
treasure of Moustier was now in his possession.

And it was indeed a treasure which had long lain buried in the floor of
the grotto. Pic made a grimace as he thought of how many times he had
stood, squatted, reclined over the very spot where it lay concealed. The
stone—the guiding mark—had become buried in some unaccountable manner,
thereby throwing him off the scent. It was but natural, he reflected,
that Moustier—his father’s former home—should have been the cave which
concealed the treasure; but who would have thought that the stone itself
as well as the treasure might be hidden from sight?

Pic chuckled softly as he meditated over the element of chance that had
brought about his good-fortune. But for the Cave Lion, he might have
vainly hunted the world over until his dying day. He could thank Grun
Waugh for this one thing, if nothing else. The treasure had been laid
bare—or rather the stone which covered it—by a scratch of his big paw.

Pic gathered up the flints and carried them to the ledge outside. Here he
squatted to feast his eyes on a dozen or more of the finest blades ever
seen by mortal man—great almond-shaped flints, the size and form of his
own hand—a sight to make the hunter and warrior’s heart beat fast with
wonder at their great size and beautiful finish. The treasure of Moustier
was priceless and beyond compare.

His first excitement having passed, Pic devoted himself to a more
detailed inspection of the flints. They were all very much alike—great
hand-axes; pointed and edged on one end; blunt on the other to
accommodate the grip of the hand. They differed little from each other,
in size, form, manner of chipping and even the material from which they
were made. All bore the same evidence of retouch—the tiny chipping which
made the margins so straight and keen. In them was none of the rude
flaking and that, only on one side as characterized the wavy, irregular
edges of Mousterian blades.

Wonderful indeed! Nothing could be more wonderful; but strange to say
Pic turned from them and gazed wistfully at the sky. He sighed. The
treasure of Moustier was incomparable with anything in all the world;
but its owner now found himself a victim of baffled hope and bitter
disappointment.

Why? Simply because they taught him nothing. A knowledge of the art
itself and not the finished product was what he sought.

“How were they made?” had been and yet was the question uppermost in his
mind; but on this point, the cold lustrous flints remained pitilessly
silent. Pic was undisputed master of the treasure; but as far as the
manner of its making was concerned, he knew no more now than he did
before.



XXI


Pic continued gazing wistfully at the sky. He was thinking of former
days; of his search for the Terrace Man which had availed him nothing;
of the treasure which after repeated failure, he had now so unexpectedly
discovered. The latter pertained to that which he sought above all
things—a knowledge of the art whereby men formerly retouched their
hammered flakes. But the flints themselves taught him nothing. The
knowledge which had seemed almost within his grasp, had now slipped as it
were, through his fingers, leaving him as far from his goal as ever. He
picked up one of the blades with his left hand.

“This work was not done entirely with the hammer-stone” he reflected
bitterly. “Some other means was used to strike off these tiny chips. What
it was, I would give my life to know.”

He was about to lay the flint down with its fellows when his eyes fell
upon the piece of bone lying upon the rock where he had placed it.
Strange, that such a trifling object should intrude itself upon him at
this moment. He picked it up and examined it.

The bone was polished and notched on one end. It was strangely hard and
heavy. The notched end in particular seemed most peculiar. Pic regarded
it curiously.

“That mark was not made by a lion’s tooth,” he reasoned. “The bone has
been neither roughly scratched nor chewed, nor would the brute’s tongue
have smoothed it down so nicely.”

His thoughts were now centered upon the bone fragment. He had forgotten
the flints entirely.

The bone was in his right hand; the blade which he had been examining,
still remained in his left. More by accident than design, he set the
notched end of the bone against one edge of the flint and pressed
strongly downward. A tiny chip flew off. More astounding things may have
happened in the world but not to the Ape Boy of Moustier. A look of
bewilderment spread over his face. He pressed again with the same result.

[Illustration: PIC DISCOVERS THE USE OF THE BONE TOOL]

A dim ray rapidly growing broader and brighter, diffused its light
through the Ape Boy’s brain. The significance of his discovery cannot
be overestimated, simple though it seems. The secret of the Terrace Men
was revealed—the art of retouching hammered flints. Pic had reached his
goal at last simply because of a piece of bone found buried with the
treasure. The treasure was in reality the bone itself—the finishing tool
of the Terrace flint-worker wherewith the final chipping operation was
accomplished. With it, he pressed—not hammered—off the smaller chips
and finished the edges straight and keen. No danger of fracturing even
the longest and thinnest blade by this method. The tiny flakes flew as
readily under pressure of the bone tool as did the larger ones beneath
the blows of the hammer-stone.

It was simple enough when one knew how to do it. Pic wondered why he had
not thought of it before. The bone tool was the key to the whole art. His
cup of joy so nearly empty, was now filled to overflowing. He beamed; he
smiled until his mouth threatened to split from ear to ear. Never was a
man or woman’s happiness more complete. In his ecstasy, the hard rock
beneath him felt like a seat among the clouds.

And now with his discovery of the lost art, came a desire to put that art
to a practical test. Knowledge meant power if used to good purpose. Pic
determined to adapt the much he had learned to his own ends.

His first need was raw material on which to work. This meant a trip to
the valley in search of flint. Before venturing forth, he gathered up the
treasure and replaced it within the cavity where he had found it—all but
the bone tool and a single blade. He then set the stone back in place and
covered it with loose dirt so that it was effectually concealed. The
one flint he retained, was intended to replace the blade of Ach Eul so
recently broken over the hyena’s head. He recovered his discarded ax-haft
and in a jiffy, it was fitted with a new head as large and keen as the
one it had originally borne.

Thus re-armed, he descended into the valley and sought the river gravels
for raw flint-lumps—essentials in implement manufacture. After securing
all that he could conveniently carry, he crossed the meadows and chose
a secluded spot among the loose boulders which lay thickly strewn along
the base of the towering cliff-walls. Here, without danger of being
interrupted he devoted himself to the practical application of his newly
discovered flint-working art.

First he broke up the lumps he had gathered with a hammer-stone in
the usual way. This in itself was an operation which called for a
considerable degree of skill. When struck in the right place and with
just the proper force, the wax-like sheets or blanks were detached
from the flint-mass with remarkable smoothness and precision. In the
performance of this operation, Pic displayed an adeptness born of long
experience. Once the blanks were hewn, then came the second step in
flint-making when the blanks were roughed out to the desired shapes
and partly edged. This work was accomplished by light taps of the
hammer-stone. Up to this point the work was done according to the
ordinary method of the skilled Mousterian artisan.

Pic drew a long deep breath. All was ready for the third and final
stage—retouching—such as no Mousterian had ever attempted. His fingers
trembled as he put aside his hammer-stone and essayed his first trial of
the new art.

The bone tool now came into play. With it, Pic pressed off the last tiny
chips along the point and edges of the flint-flake. By this time he
had become so engrossed in his work that he was entirely oblivious to
everything else. A clammy snake-like object suddenly glided over his left
shoulder and as he sprang to his feet and faced about with an astonished
yell, there stood the Mammoth and Rhinoceros so close that either one
could have trod upon him with a single forward step.

“Ugh!” he muttered weakly as he recognized his friends. “Why did you so
startle me? You should have given warning.”

To this, the Mammoth paid scant attention. “What were you doing there?”
he asked. “Not the rock-cracking part but that which you do with the
little stick. I never saw you do the like before.”

“Stick? Agh, you mean the bone tool.” Pic held it up so that both could
see. “This is the Terrace Man’s secret, his method of retouching hammered
flakes. I found it high upon a mountain, in a cave, beneath a stone in
the floor——”

“The treasure!” echoed both animals.

“Aye, the treasure. I found it only this morning in my cave upon the
Rock.”

The Mammoth who was with difficulty restraining his rising excitement at
this unexpected news, looked quickly this way and that. “What? Where?” he
eagerly demanded.

“Here right in front of your nose,” said Pic. “This piece of bone. There
were flints too; but this bone is the treasure.”

Hairi seized it between the two lips of his trunk-tip and held it before
his eyes for examination. “A bone?” he repeated in tones of overwhelming
disappointment. His jaw dropped. His ears hung limp.

“I said it was probably a bone,” the Rhinoceros now broke in with an
I-told-you-so air. “Did it have any meat on it?”

“No it was just as you see it,” Pic replied. “Remarkable is it not?”

Hairi regarded it with a look of intense disgust. Even Wulli began to
share his lack of enthusiasm.

“Treasure, indeed,” the Mammoth sniffed.

“It might as well have been a piece of rotten wood,” the Rhinoceros added.

“You do not understand,” said Pic. “This bone is a tool. A man buried
it. He used it to retouch his flints. See; he pressed off the tiny chips
instead of hammering them.” He illustrated his remarks by applying one
end of the bone to a flake; a most interesting explanation to all present
except his two friends. Wulli stared with his blankest expression while
the Mammoth stretched his neck and yawned:

“Warm day, this. Soon we will all have to be off for the cool country.”

But Pic made no reply, for by this time, he was back, squatting among his
flint-flakes and again absorbed in his work. For a time his two friends
looked wonderingly on; then becoming impatient, they fidgeted and stamped
and grumbled and made all sorts of disagreeable remarks, none of which
did Pic have eyes or ears for. Finally they went off in a huff leaving
Pic squatting alone and unmindful of their departure.

All day he toiled and it was only when the shades of night began to
settle over him that he rose to his feet and kicked the knots out of his
cramped limbs. His night was spent in the grotto of Moustier but with the
first morning light, he was up and ready to resume his work. The Mammoth
and Rhinoceros and the Cave-men of Ferrassie were temporarily set aside.

“Flints first; my friends second,” he determined for the moment and
therewith sought a secluded nook among the loftiest and most inaccessible
crags where he could perform his self-allotted task without interference
from friend or foe.

It was not long before his efforts began to produce results. Although at
first, his use of the bone tool was slow and laborious, he was patient
and eager to learn and his technique quickly improved. He spoiled some
pieces and only half-succeeded with others but practice makes perfect
and gradually he attained proficiency in the master craft, perhaps even
excelled the Terrace flint-worker in one particular at least—diversity
of form. He did not confine his efforts to producing ax-blades alone but
made each flake into whatever tool its shape suggested. Thin elongate
pieces he fashioned into points for darts; irregular flakes of no
particular form with curved edges, made excellent tools for scraping
and dressing hides; large fragments with one long keen edge served for
skinning-blades, and so on.

For a week or more, he pursued his vocation in total solitude until at
last it seemed to him that the time was near at hand to prove the value
of his discovery in the eyes of men and at the same time determine the
measure of his success in putting it to a practical test.

“The men of the Rock-shelter shall judge its merits,” he determined.
“Unless their eyes are opened, I will renounce the new art of
flint-making forever.”

And so one morning, he selected three of his newly made flints—his best
and no two alike—and wrapped them in a packet of rabbit skin. This done,
he concealed his remaining flints together with the bone finishing tool,
swept away all traces of his work and was soon on his way down the valley
towards the Rock-shelter of Ferrassie.



XXII


The hunt was ended. The roe-buck had breathed his last and lay where
he had fallen with glazed eyes staring at the sky. The Cave-men were
gathered about the body, preparing to remove the skin and quarter the
carcass for transport across the meadows.

While his followers were thus engaged, the burly Mousterian chieftain
withdrew to the neighboring stream to cool his heated brow and rest
himself. The chase had been a hard one but he was in rare humor
nevertheless. His dart had been the first to reach its mark; and after
the long chase, his ax had dealt the finishing stroke. As he sat upon the
bank gazing at the water below him, his thoughts were rudely disturbed
by a loud “Hi-yo!” coming from across the stream. He looked up and saw a
man standing on the opposite bank. The stranger shouted again and waved
an arm. The hunters now came running up to obtain a better view of the
newcomer.

“Who is it?” asked one.

“If I had not with my own eyes seen him fall a victim to the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros, I would say it was the Ape Boy,” said another.

The burly chief glared fiercely at the one who had just spoken.

“Ape Boy? Bah! Let no man speak that name again if he values his own
beast-hide. He is Pic, Killer of the Bison. Remember it well.”

“Killer of the Mammoth and Rhinoceros too,” added the man thus chided.
“How else could he return to us alive?”

Meanwhile the stranger was wading and swimming across the stream. The
hunters gazed at him in awe as he drew nearer and nearer. He emerged at
last, climbed the bank and shook the dripping water from his body.

“Do the dead live again?” asked the amazed chieftain. “Or do I see before
me, one greater than the mighty Mammoth?”

Pic merely grinned. “The Mammoth? Agh; no matter. I drove him and the
other beast away. But enough of them. Tell your men to step back. I have
something which you alone should see.”

The chieftain shouted a command and in a moment his followers were
hustling back to their business about the dead buck.

Pic squatted upon his haunches and took a deep breath. He held a packet
of rabbit-skin in his hand.

“Since leaving you, my days were spent alone upon the Rock,” he began.

“Alone? Why?” the chieftain demanded.

“I was—um-m—sick.” Pic suddenly remembered the half-healed wound in his
thigh. He did look a bit thin and haggard. Hard work and light eating had
left their marks.

“Bah!” The chieftain was again gazing dreamily at the water. His brows
were contracted in deep thought. He seemed to have forgotten the other’s
presence.

“While I was—um—sick,” Pic began, “I spent my time making something for
you to see.” He glanced at the Cave-men who were now engaged in skinning
the dead buck, then held out the packet of rabbit fur. The chieftain took
a quick sidelong glance, then looked away.

“Ugh,” was all he said.

Pic rolled back a fold of the packet, meanwhile watching the other
closely from the corners of his eyes. A large flint blade was disclosed—a
skinning knife. In form and finish, it was a gem.

The chieftain lost his far-away look. He began to fidget. His mouth
watered as he observed that which lay so temptingly within his reach. He
made a supreme effort to conceal his true feelings; but flesh and blood
could not—would not—stand the strain. He gasped, turned quickly and
pointed to the skinning-blade.

“That flint you hold—Agh! Let me see it.”

Pic’s blood surged through his veins like molten steel. With difficulty,
he stilled the exultation raging within him and preserved his appearance
of outward calm. Without a word, he handed the flint to his companion who
seized it eagerly and ran his thumb along one edge.

“It is indeed a treasure,” he exclaimed. “Never have I seen the like.
Would you part with it?”

To conceal his bubbling joy, Pic now drew a long face.

“Part with it?” he exclaimed in tones of well-feigned astonishment. “Then
I would have nothing—unless you chose to give me something in return.”

The chieftain chuckled inwardly at this shrewd suggestion. “My share of
the buck, how would that suit you? I would give even that for such a
flint as this. What say you? A haunch of venison? You have been ill. The
meat will make you strong.”

But Pic merely shook his head.

“A hide; one, two, three,” the Mousterian leader held up one finger after
another but without increasing the other’s interest a single whit. “Here
is an odd fellow,” he thought to himself. “Nothing appears to please
him. He is our best warrior and may well give me the worst of it if I
fight him for the flint.” He wrinkled his brows, much perplexed. He could
make one more offer, such as it was and if that failed, a combat was
unavoidable, for he was determined to keep the blade now that it was in
his possession.

“The flint I must have,” he growled. “I will offer you something else—a
woman.”

The youth’s manner changed in a flash. He raised his head and squared
his shoulders. “Agreed; the flint is yours. I take the girl—she who so
narrowly escaped death on the butcher block.”

The Mousterian leader was astounded. He had not expected such quick and
ready response. He now recalled Pic’s interest in the young woman and
already repented his offer. “Oho,” he thought; “What a calf I was;” and
his face assumed such a cunning expression, Pic saw in a moment that he
had overplayed his hand.

“Ugh! Not so fast,” he remonstrated; “The girl is my daughter and the
daughter of a chief cannot be had for nothing. One flint is not enough.”

Pic’s eyes opened wide; then scowled angrily. He unfolded the packet
once more. The chieftain’s face brightened. He was gazing upon a second
superb flint—a tool for scraping and dressing hides. Although differing
in design, it was as fine in form and finish as the first. It was on his
lips to say “Agreed,” and close the deal at once but he checked himself
just in time. The packet—as he observed—was not yet empty.

“No; not even the two are enough,” he growled. Pic unrolled the packet
the third time, then held the rabbit-skin dangling from his fingers to
show that his limit was reached. The last flint—an ax-blade with edges
hewn straight and keen—was a marvellous creation. As in a dream, the
chieftain stared and wondered, while Pic strove to drive home his bargain.

“The knife, scraper, ax; all are yours,” he said determinedly. “I take
the girl. Quick, your answer. If they are not enough, I will make them so
and with my bare hands”; and he squared back with his arms outstretched
as though prepared to fly at the other’s throat.

A great commotion ensued among those gathered about the dead buck. The
Cave-men dropped their work and came crowding around the pair. A contest
between two such skilled warriors would be worth going far to see.

The chieftain hesitated. His eyes flashed fire but the rage within his
heart was ebbing fast. Through his mind, ran thoughts of advantages to
be gained by an alliance with this young warrior, hunter and maker of
wonderful flints. He observed his followers closing in about them. “I did
but wish to try his mettle,” he cried loudly, then lowered his weapon.

Growls of disapproval greeted this peaceful termination of what promised
to be a combat well worth the watching. The Mousterian leader silenced
them with a fierce look.

“The bargain is made,” he roared; “There shall be no blood-letting
between us. Let him who objects, stand forth.”

The sight of his burly figure and savage looks was sufficient to repress
further argument. None stood forth; nobody objected.

“What bargain?” shouted a voice.

The chieftain’s fierce mien suddenly changed. He produced his three
flints and held them in his hand so that all could see. A chorus of
astonished grunts arose as the Cave-men crowded forward and examined the
wonderful blades.

“Who owns them? From where did they come?” one of the men asked.

“I own them,” the chief answered proudly. “They are the price that he who
killed the Bison, chooses to pay for the girl, my daughter.”

Every pair of eyes turned inquiringly—some compassionately—upon him
who could thus squander his wealth so recklessly. Pic felt overwhelmed
with embarrassment by the publicity so suddenly thrust upon him. He saw
nothing but a sea of eyes and leering faces.

“Who made them?” demanded one of the Cave-men. “Would that all of us had
flints like these.”

Pic glowed with pleasure as he heard these words. They gave him courage
to unburden his heart and speak of what was in his mind. “I made them,”
he said and then as all stared in wonder and held their peace, he went on:

“For many days have I sought the lost art of retouching hammered flints.
We men have grown careless with our flint-working. We have become
sluggish. We sit back to rot in caves or starve, simply for the lack of
fitting tools and weapons to kill and dress our food. I know now how they
may be made. Those”—he pointed to the three pieces in the chieftain’s
hands—“are my first—the new patterns chipped straight and keen—on both
sides.”

Pic’s hearers were now rapidly recovering from their first astonishment.
By this time, they were ready to believe anything of this remarkable
youth. Had he produced a pair of wings and flown away, they would have
been surprised no doubt; but one and all would have accepted it as a
matter of course.

“If you made these, you can make more,” suggested one of the Cave-men.

“Arrah; he can thus serve us even better than by taking his part in the
hunt!” said another.

Pic fairly beamed. His first efforts to revive the lost art were tested
and adjudged an unqualified success. A thought of the future flashed
through his mind.

“To make blades like these, I will need many flint lumps,” he said. “If
you gather them I will have more time for my work.”

The burly chieftain nodded approval.

“My men will supply them,” he generously agreed. “The stone will be
forthcoming if you make the tools.”

Pic shut one eye and grinned in the other’s face. His future career as a
business man was rapidly shaping itself.

“I will need food and hides as well,” he shrewdly suggested. “Perhaps
your men will supply them too.”

The Mousterian leader cocked his head thoughtfully on one side. He began
to see that neither he nor his followers were to be furnished new tools
and weapons unless they gave something in return. Far from resenting
Pic’s shrewdness, he congratulated himself on having established close
relations between himself and this remarkable youth. Raw flint was
plentiful enough. Sharper, finer weapons, meant more meat and hides—more
fruitful hunting. He and his followers could meet Pic on his own terms.

“Agreed,” he said. All nodded assent; and Bargain Number Two was closed.

The hide and severed portions of the slain buck were now raised on half
a dozen pairs of brawny shoulders; and with Pic in their midst, bearing
himself like a returning conqueror, the Cave-men of Ferrassie returned
across the meadows to the overhanging cliffs.



XXIII


With the beginning of summer weather, the Mammoth and Rhinoceros forsook
the Dordogne region for a cooler climate. Pic had disappeared and they
were compelled to leave alone. After a season of aimless wanderings in
the North, they returned to their winter quarters in the Vézère Valley,
their minds filled with the idea that life minus Pic was incomplete and
that they would not go off again without him.

But Pic had vanished and there appeared no clue pointing to where he had
gone. Cave-men rarely roamed abroad during the freezing weather but kept
to their caves, large numbers of which were to be found in the cliffs
which lined the valleys of the Vézère and its tributary streams.

Neither the Mammoth nor Rhinoceros ever entered these dark holes for
their own comfort. They cherished a violent dislike for any enclosure
suggesting prison walls and therefore, kept in the open country for
which—with their weather-proof garments—they were well adapted. But
in this particular instance, they made a point of peering into every
opening they saw, in order to determine by eye or nostril, what manner of
creature was contained therein.

As a rule, the grottoes or shallow caves were occupied by human beings
all huddled together, trying to keep warm. The sudden appearance of a
mammoth and rhinoceros at the entrances of their dwellings, struck terror
in the hearts of the wretched inmates. But the two great beasts were
peaceably inclined. Invariably they withdrew as gracefully as possible,
after assuring themselves that the one they sought was not among those
present. Day after day, week after week, they tramped about through the
snow, carefully examining all caves which smelled of smoke—a sign of
human occupancy—but none of them harbored their friend, the Ape Boy.

Spring came at last; and still no sign of him. The pair began to feel
anxious. They travelled and searched over wide areas of country and
meanwhile the slowly rising temperature warned them to begin preparing
for a journey to some more congenial climate. “We must soon be departing
for the cool country,” said the Mammoth one morning. “It appears as
though we would have to leave again without him.”

“We can at least search the valley as we go,” Wulli suggested. “If we
fail to find him, we can return and search again before the cool weather
sets in.”

So the two cronies proceeded leisurely up the Vézère, examining every
nook and cranny as they went. The Cave-men had by this time, abandoned
their winter quarters for the rock-shelters and open country. The two
animals passed several groups of them but without catching a glimpse of
the particular one they sought.

At last the great Rock of Moustier rose before them. They were plodding
along its base when the Mammoth came to a sudden halt and glanced above
him.

“Here is his old home,” he said. “He may be there now. We can climb up
and see.”

The Rhinoceros offered no objections; so the pair ascended to the middle
terrace,—not that they expected to find Pic there; but they could take
comfort at least in gazing once more upon a spot fraught with so many
pleasant associations. Imagine their surprise when as their heads rose to
a level with the rock-platform, the first thing they saw was the Ape Boy
himself, squatting on the ledge fronting the grotto. He was doing just
as he had been doing when the two animals first called upon him—cracking
rocks. The ledge was thickly strewn with chips, freshly-broken flakes
and lumps of flint. Hairi and Wulli were so overcome by this unexpected
sight, they could only stand and stare.

At that moment, Pic glanced up from his work and saw the two heads
peeking over the edge of the terrace. His look of sudden surprise changed
as quickly to a broad grin which displayed nearly every tooth in his head.

“Where did you two come from?” he asked as the pair clambered up to where
he sat. “I have not seen you for a very long time.”

“We are leaving for the cool country,” the Mammoth explained. “You will
join us, of course.”

“No, I am not going,” Pic declared. “Why should I? This is my home”; and
he pointed to the grotto.

“Not going?” the Mammoth repeated in a hollow voice. “Are we to
understand that you refuse to join Wulli and me—your only friends?”

“Agh, it is so,” Pic replied in tones of genuine regret; “But I have much
work to do, and—there are other reasons. Things have changed since we
were last together. I cannot go with you, nor would I if I could.”

Pic was visibly embarrassed. He kept his eyes on the ground and seemed
loth to raise them. Hairi and Wulli looked at each other in amazement.
Some strange influence had come over their former companion. His
care-free recklessness was gone and he spoke in a way they could not
understand.

“It is you who have changed,” said the Mammoth. “Wulli, I, everything
else is the same as it has always been. Every hair on my body is as it
was; not one more nor less.”

Pic glanced up quickly.

“Well said,” he replied. “I have changed and you have not. Agh, you
cannot understand. No longer do I have idle moments. All of my time must
now be given to making weapons.”

“What are your other reasons?” asked Wulli. “I do not think much of the
first one.”

Pic looked thoughtfully at the pair, then turned and glanced behind him.
Then without replying, he arose and strode to the grotto. He disappeared
within, but in a moment came out again with a bundle in his arms—a small
bundle wrapped in a badger-skin. He bore it with the greatest care,
lifting his feet high to avoid stumbling on the uneven rock-floor.
Several steps carefully chosen and he stood directly beneath the giant
Mammoth’s head.

Hairi and Wulli watched these strange actions in silence. Their attention
was centered on the mysterious parcel which Pic carried. It was a round
object covered with fuzz, but there appeared to be more of it beneath the
badger-hide. The two animals eyed it curiously while Pic looked on, his
mouth gradually expanding in a broad grin at their puzzled expressions.

“Is it a pine-cone?” the Mammoth asked.

“Agh! you see only part of it,” Pic chuckled, as he threw back a fold of
the badger-skin; “And alive too. Speak softly or you will awaken it.”

“Alive? Then it must be an animal,” the Mammoth whispered; “And something
new. I never saw one like it before.”

“Where did you get it?” Wulli asked.

“I have had it for some time,” Pic replied. “You surely must know what it
is.”

Both animals took a long, careful look.

“Did it come from this part of the country?” Hairi inquired.

Pic nodded and smiled.

“Wood-chuck.” The Mammoth made this announcement after a moment of deep
reflection.

“Not enough hair,” said Wulli. “It is a boar—a young one.”

“A young one did you say?” inquired Pic.

“Yes, a young boar.”

“Bah!” Pic scowled and bit his lips angrily.

The Rhinoceros shrank back at being thus rebuked. He felt cheap.

“This is a man-child,” snapped Pic, unable to hold his patience a moment
longer. “Some day it will grow to be big and strong like me.”

For a moment, Hairi and Wulli were overwhelmed by this astounding bit of
news.

“I believe he is right,” the Mammoth whispered to his partner. “Who would
have thought of such a thing? Where did you get this—er calf?” he asked
Pic.

“Child, you mean,” the latter sternly corrected. “It belongs to me. It is
mine.”

“We will not dispute that,” snorted Wulli. “You have it and you may keep
it. But where did you get it.”

Pic seemed bewildered for a moment, then chuckled gleefully; “I am its
father. You two talk and act as though you had no sense at all.”

The Mammoth breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“And so this is what is holding you back. I feared it was something
serious. Let the poor little thing go and come along with us.”

Pic frowned. “No,” he replied. “I would not leave it alone. It would
starve to death.”

Hairi pondered. He was not heartless. Young animals soon learned to
take care of themselves as far as he knew; however this might be an
exceptional case.

“Bring it with you,” he said. “I have no objections. Have you, Wulli?”

The Rhinoceros nodded his approval, after due reflection.

“It will soon be able to run around and look after itself,” he sniffed.
“What an odd little thing! Does it ever make a noise or show that it is
alive?”

At that moment, the infant yawned and began turning its head this way and
that with mouth all puckered up. Hairi and Wulli shuffled closer and held
their breaths. The small creature’s forehead wrinkled. It was preparing
to exercise its lungs. At these signs of approaching storm, Pic looked
anxiously towards the grotto. “It is hungry,” he said.

The infant’s features relaxed at sound of his voice. The deep-set eyes
opened. They caught sight of the Mammoth’s gleaming tusks. The eyes
opened wider and stared in childish wonder. A tiny hand thrust itself
from beneath the badger-skin. It reached upwards towards the giant head;
and then—the baby smiled. Hairi trembled from head to foot. In the face
of such assurance, he was at a loss how to act.

“What is it doing?” he asked in an awed whisper.

“Your tusks; they please him,” the proud father answered. “He wants to
play with them.”

The great Mammoth became deeply impressed. Small animals were usually
afraid of him. The idea of playing with such a tiny mite, was most
amusing. He lowered his trunk and curled its flexible tip coyly about the
baby’s arm—a touch so gentle that it would not have ruffled a beetle’s
wing.

As Pic saw his child in the Mammoth’s grasp, he involuntarily shrank
back. Hairi released his hold, whereupon the infant raised both arms and
squalled loudly. Its fun was spoiled.

“What a queer noise,” the Rhinoceros sniffed. “It yells just like a
bobcat.”

At the sound of his voice, the youngster ceased bawling and turned upon
him with open mouth and staring eyes. The latter centered themselves
upon the shining horn which stood upright on the Rhino’s nose. As Wulli
became conscious of the publicity centered upon his own person, he
coughed nervously and strove to assume an air of indifference. The big
eyes continued to stare. The Rhinoceros smirked, lowered his eyes to the
ground and pretended to be deeply absorbed in the movements of a small
bug which was scurrying across the rock beneath his chin.

At that moment, a new actor appeared upon the scene—a woman, coming from
a cleft in the rock. She wore a short skirt of deer-skin. A clam-shell
dangled from a rawhide cord about her neck. At sight of the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros, she uttered a cry of fear and retreated a few steps but as
she espied Pic with the infant in his arms, she bounded forward again and
bared her teeth at the two now thoroughly surprised animals.

“Who is that?” asked Hairi.

“The mother,” Pic replied. “The baby belongs to her.”

“Oo-wee! You said it was yours,” the Rhinoceros sternly corrected. “Which
is right?”

“Both. It is hers and mine too. I am the father; she is the mother. We
both own it.”

Pic turned to his mate. “These were—are still my friends,” he explained.
“Once they saved me from the Cave Lion just as you saved me from the
butcher-block.”

But the mother merely stared and made no reply.

“You must understand,” cried Pic, “they are animals—the Mammoth and
Rhinoceros—but my friends, your friends, once the best I ever had; and
now they must be yours as they are mine. As for the little one, they
would not touch a hair of his head.” He stopped and grinned, then handed
her the infant and stepped beneath the Mammoth’s mighty chest.

“Quick,” he whispered, “your foreleg; help me to mount your neck.” At
this almost forgotten command, Hairi uttered a joyous bellow and assisted
his rider to his accustomed seat. For a moment Pic’s face lay buried in
the matted locks crowning the great head-peak. One hand stole downward
and patted the Mammoth’s cheek.

“Good old friend,” he said in a low voice. “The child; give it to me,
and as you would be gentle with me, use tenderly that which is mine.”
Then as the woman gazed upward with mingled feelings of awe and fear at
the great Mammoth head and its rider, Hairi’s trunk reached forward and
curled about the infant like a python’s fold. In a twinkle, the child was
plucked from its mother’s arms and whirled aloft. With a loud cry, the
poor woman fell upon her knees with face in the dirt as though to shut
out the terrible sight; but when she raised her head—lo and behold!—she
saw naught of fearful things, merely the faces of her two treasures
beaming upon her from on high. The infant was kicking and crowing with
delight and Pic’s grin threatened to engulf his own ears.

Thus assured, the anxious mother gained hope and courage and smiled
weakly in response. A radiant warmth of joyous understanding swept over
the little gathering.

“Why not all of us go away just as we are?” Hairi suggested. “The
Trog-woman can ride on Wulli’s neck.”

“You are wasting breath,” snorted the Rhinoceros. “He has chosen his home
and will not leave it until once more the cold winds come. When the woman
has strayed away and the calf has learned to shift for itself, he will
join us; but not now.”

[Illustration: PLUCKED FROM ITS MOTHER’S ARMS AND WHIRLED ALOFT]

Pic heard; and in his eyes glittered a strange light which the Rhinoceros
would not have understood, even had he seen. Wulli erred, otherwise he
would not have been a Rhinoceros. In a moment, Pic had lowered the infant
into its mother’s outstretched arms and was descending to the ground.

“Now you know why I cannot go with you,” he said to the two animals.
“This is my home, my family and the work I like best. But when you
return, here you will find me, not merely after the one change of
season—but always; and always will you be my good friends and welcome.
Here I must stay and although we must part for the time being, it is
farewell until we meet again.”

Hairi made as though to remonstrate but there was something in Pic’s
voice and manner that made him and the Rhinoceros hold their peace
and say no more. He bowed his head and strode to the edge of the
rock-platform, followed closely by his woolly associate. Before beginning
the descent, both turned and looked back to where Pic still stood with
arm pointing up the valley.

“Farewell until we meet again,” three voices murmured in solemn chorus,
and then the two animals carefully descended the slope and set off side
by side across the meadows. The great lumbering strides of the Mammoth
contrasted strangely with the bobbing trot of his smaller companion.
Suddenly as though actuated by a common impulse, both halted and gazed
back long and earnestly at the now distant heights of Moustier.

Two figures, so close together that they resembled one dark speck, stood
outlined against the sky. One of them raised and waved an arm, which from
afar resembled a thin, black thread. A faint cry reached the ears of the
pair below. The Mammoth raised his trunk and trumpeted a shrill response;
then wheeled and resumed his way.

For him and Wulli, life was too filled with the joys of nature to be more
than temporarily disturbed by passing regrets. “Until we meet again” ran
through his brain; for now he knew that the triple alliance remained
unshaken and that time would again see united, the Ape Boy, the Mammoth
and the Woolly Rhinoceros.

THE END

[Illustration]





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