THE CAVEGIRL pt1
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The Cave Girl is a lost world novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In an instant there sloughed from the heart and mind and soul of Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones every particle of civilization and culture and refinement that has required countless ages in the building, stripping him naked, age on age, down to the primordial beast that has begot his first human progenitor. He saw red as he leaped for the throat of the man-beast whose ruthless hands were upon Nadara Rolling, tearing and biting, they battled-each seeking a death hold on the other. Nadara’s eyes were wide with fascination. She leaned forward with parted lips, drinking in every detail of the conflict between the two beasts. Ah, but was the yellow-haired giant really fighting for the possession of her, or merely in protection, because she is a woman?
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THE CAVE GIRL
THE dim shadow of the thing was but a blur against the dim shadows of the wood
behind it. The young man could distinguish no outline that might mark the presence as either brute or human. He could see no eyes, yet he knew that somewhere from out of that noiseless mass stealthy eyes were fixed upon him. This was the fourth time that the thing had crept from out the wood as darkness was settling—the fourth time during those three horrible weeks since he had been cast upon that lonely shore that he had watched, terror-stricken, while night engulfed the shadowy form that lurked at the forest's edge.
It had never attacked him, but to his distorted imagination it seemed to slink closer and closer as night fell—waiting, always waiting for the moment that it might find him unprepared.
Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones was not overly courageous. He had been reared among surroundings of culture plus and ultra-intellectuality in the exclusive Back Bay home of his ancestors. He had been taught to look with contempt upon all that savored of muscular superiority—such things were gross, brutal, primitive. It had been a giant intellect only that he had craved—he and a fond mother—and their wishes had been fulfilled. At twenty-one Waldo was an animated encyclopedia—and about as muscular as a real one. Now he slunk shivering with fright at the very edge of the beach, as far from the grim forest as he could get. Cold sweat broke from every pore of his long, lank, six-foot-two body. His skinny arms and legs trembled as with palsy. Occasionally he coughed—it had been the cough that had banished him upon this ill-starred sea voyage. As he crouched in the sand, staring with wide, horror-dilated eyes into the black night, great tears rolled down his thin, white cheeks.
It was with difficulty that he restrained an overpowering desire to shriek. His mind was
filled with forlorn regrets that he had not remained at home to meet the wasting death that the doctor had predicted—a peaceful death at least—not the brutal end which faced him now.
The lazy swell of the South Pacific lapped his legs, stretched upon the sand, for he had retreated before that menacing shadow as far as the ocean would permit. As the slow minutes dragged into age-long hours, the nervous strain told so heavily upon the weak boy that toward midnight he lapsed into merciful unconsciousness.
The warm sun awoke him the following morning, but it brought with it but a faint renewal of courage. Things could not creep to his side unseen now, but still they could come, for the sun would not protect him. Even now some savage beast might be lurking just within the forest. The thought unnerved him to such an extent that he dared not venture to the woods for the fruit that had formed the major portion of his sustenance.
Along the beach he picked up a few mouthfuls of sea-food, but that was all.
The day passed, as had the other terrible days which had preceded it, in scanning alternately the ocean and the forest's edge—the one for a ship and the other for the cruel death which he momentarily expected to see stalk out of the dreary shades to claim him.
A more practical and a braver man would have constructed some manner of shelter in which he might have spent his nights in comparative safety and comfort, but Waldo Emerson's education had been conducted along lines of undiluted intellectuality— pursuits and knowledge which were practical were commonplace, and commonplaces were vulgar. It was preposterous that a Smith-Jones should ever have need of vulgar knowledge.
For the twenty-second time since the great wave had washed him from the steamer's deck and hurled him, choking and sputtering, upon this inhospitable shore, Waldo Emerson saw the sun sinking rapidly toward the western horizon. As it descended the young man's terror increased, and he kept his eyes glued upon the spot from which the shadow had emerged the previous evening. He felt that he could not endure another night of the torture he had passed through four times before. That he should go mad he was positive, and he commenced to tremble and whimper even while daylight yet remained. For a time he tried turning his back to the forest, and then he sat huddled up gazing out upon the ocean; but the tears which rolled down his cheeks so blurred his eyes that he saw nothing.
Finally he could endure it no longer, and with a sudden gasp of horror he wheeled toward the wood. There was nothing visible, yet he broke down and sobbed like a child, for loneliness and terror.
When he was able to control his tears for a moment he took the opportunity to scan the deepening shadows once more. The first glance brought a piercing shriek from his white lips.
The thing was there!
The young man did not fall groveling to the sand this time—instead, he stood staring with protruding eyes at the vague form, while shriek after shriek broke from his grinning lips.
Reason was tottering.
The thing, whatever it was, halted at the first blood-curdling cry, and then when the cries continued it slunk back toward the wood.
With what remained of his ebbing mentality Waldo Emerson realized that it were better to die at once than face the awful fears of the black night. He would rush to meet his fate, and thus end this awful agony of suspense.
With the thought came action, so that, still shrieking, he rushed headlong toward the thing at the wood's rim. As he ran it turned and fled into the forest, and after it went Waldo Emerson, his long, skinny legs carrying his emaciated body in great leaps and bounds through the tearing underbrush.
He emitted shriek after shriek—ear-piercing shrieks that ended in long drawn out wails, more wolfish than human. And the thing that fled through the night before him was shrieking, too, now.
Time and again the young man stumbled and fell. Thorns and brambles tore his clothing and his soft flesh. Blood smeared him from head to feet. Yet on and on he rushed through the semi-darkness of the now moonlit forest.
At first impelled by the mad desire to embrace death and wrest the peace of oblivion from its cruel clutch, Waldo Emerson had come to pursue the screaming shadow before him from an entirely different motive. Now it was for companionship. He screamed now because of a fear that the thing would elude him and that he should be left alone in the depth of this weird wood. Slowly but surely it was drawing away from him, and as Waldo Emerson realized the fact he redoubled his efforts to overtake it. He had stopped screaming now, for the strain of his physical exertion found his weak lungs barely adequate to the needs of his gasping respiration.
Suddenly the pursuit emerged from the forest to cross a little moonlit clearing, at the opposite side of which towered a high and rocky cliff. Toward this the fleeing creature sped, and in an instant more was swallowed, apparently, by the face of the cliff.
Its disappearance was as mysterious and awesome as its identity had been, and left the young man in blank despair. With the object of pursuit gone, the reaction came, and Waldo Emerson sank trembling and exhausted at the foot of the cliff. A paroxysm of coughing seized him, and thus he lay in an agony of apprehension, fright, and misery until from very weakness he sank into a deep sleep.
It was daylight when he awoke—stiff, lame, sore, hungry, and miserable—but, withal, refreshed and sane. His first consideration was prompted by the craving of a starved stomach; yet it was with the utmost difficulty that he urged his cowardly brain to direct his steps toward the forest, where hung fruit in abundance.
At every little noise he halted in tense silence, poised to flee. His knees trembled so violently that they knocked together; but at length he entered the dim shadows, and presently was gorging himself with ripe fruits.
To reach some of the more luscious viands he had picked from the ground a piece of fallen limb, which tapered from a diameter of four inches at one end to a trifle over an inch at the other. It was the first practical thing that Waldo Emerson had done since he had been cast upon the shore of his new home—in fact, it was, in all likelihood, the nearest approximation to a practical thing which he had ever done in all his life.
Waldo had never been allowed to read fiction, nor had he ever cared to so waste his time or impoverish his brain, and nowhere in the fund of deep erudition which he had accumulated could he recall any condition analogous to those which now confronted him.
Waldo, of course, knew that there were such things as step-ladders, and had he had one he would have used it as a means to reach the fruit above his hand's reach; but that he could knock the delicacies down with a broken branch seemed indeed a mighty discovery—a valuable addition to the sum total of human knowledge. Aristotle himself had never reasoned more logically.
Waldo had taken the first step in his life toward independent mental action—heretofore his ideas, his thoughts, his acts, even, had been borrowed from the musty writing of the ancients, or directed by the immaculate mind of his superior mother. And he clung to his discovery as a child clings to a new toy. When he emerged from the forest he brought his stick with him.
He determined to continue the pursuit of the creature that had eluded him the night before. It would, indeed, be curious to look upon a thing that feared him. In all his life he had never imagined it possible that any creature could flee from him in fear. A little glow suffused the young man as the idea timorously sought to take root.
Could it be that there was a trace of swagger in that long, bony figure as Waldo directed his steps toward the cliff? Perish the thought! Pride in vulgar physical prowess! A long line of Smith-Joneses would have risen in their graves and rent their shrouds at the veriest hint of such an idea.
For a long time Waldo walked back and forth along the foot of the cliff, searching for the avenue of escape used by the fugitive of yesternight. A dozen times he passed a well- defined trail that led, winding, up the cliff's face; but Waldo knew nothing of trails—he was looking for a flight of steps or a doorway.
Finding neither, he stumbled by accident into the trail; and, although the evident signs that marked it as such revealed nothing to him, yet he followed it upward for the simple reason that it was the only place upon the cliff-side where he could find a foothold.
Some distance up he came to a narrow cleft in the cliff into which the trail led. Rocks dislodged from above had fallen into it, and, becoming wedged a few feet from the bottom, left only a small cavelike hole, into which Waldo peered.
There was nothing visible, but the interior was dark and forbidding. Waldo felt cold and clammy. He began to tremble. Then he turned and looked back toward the forest. The thought of another night spent within sight of that dismal place almost overcame him.
No! A thousand times no! Any fate were better than that, and so after several futile efforts he forced his unwilling body through the small aperture.
He found himself on a path between two rocky walls—a path that rose before him at a steep angle. At intervals the blue sky was visible above through openings that had not been filled with debris.
To another it would have been apparent that the cleft had been kept open by human beings—that it was a thoroughfare which was used, if not frequently, at least sufficiently often to warrant considerable labor having been expended upon it to keep it free from the debris which must be constantly falling from above.
Where the path led, or what he expected to find at the other end, Waldo had not the remotest idea. He was not an imaginative youth. But he kept on up the ascent in the hope that at the end he would find the creature which had escaped him the night before. As it had fled for a brief instant across the clearing beneath the moon's soft rays, Waldo had
thought that it bore a remarkable resemblance to a human figure; but of that he could not be positive.
At last his path broke suddenly into the sunlight. The walls on either side were but little higher than his head, and a moment later he emerged from the cleft onto a broad and beautiful plateau. Before him stretched a wide, grassy plain, and beyond towered a range of mighty hills. Between them and him lay a belt of forest.
A new emotion welled in the breast of Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones. It was akin to that which Balboa may have felt when he gazed for the first time upon the mighty Pacific from the Sierra de Quarequa. For the moment, as he contemplated this new and beautiful scene of rolling meadowland, distant forest, and serrated hilltops, he almost forgot to be afraid. And on the impulse of the instant he set out across the tableland to explore the unknown which lay beyond the forest.
Well it was for Waldo Emerson's peace of mind that no faint conception of what lay there entered his unimaginative mind. To him a land without civilization—without cities and towns peopled by humans with manners and customs similar to those which obtain in Boston—was beyond belief. As he walked he strained his eyes in every direction for some indication of human habitation—a fence, a chimney—anything that would be man- built; but his efforts were unrewarded.
At the verge of the forest he halted, fearing to enter; but at last, when he saw that the wood was more open than that near the ocean, and that there was but little underbrush, he mustered sufficient courage to step timidly within. On careful tiptoe he threaded his way through the parklike grove, stopping every few minutes to listen, and ready at the first note of danger to fly screaming toward the open plain.
Notwithstanding his fears, he reached the opposite boundary of the forest without seeing or hearing anything to arouse suspicion, and, emerging from the cool shade, found himself a little distance from a perpendicular white cliff, the face of which was honeycombed with the mouths of many caves. There was no living creature in sight, nor did the very apparent artificiality of the caves suggest to the impractical Waldo that they might be the habitations of perhaps savage human beings.
With the spell of discovery still upon him, he crossed the open toward the cliffs; but he had by no means forgotten his chronic state of abject fear. Ears and eyes were alert for hidden dangers; every few steps were punctuated by a timid halt and a searching survey of his surroundings.
It was during one of these halts, when he had crossed half the distance between the
forest and the cliff, that he discerned a slight movement in the wood behind him. For an instant he stood staring and frozen, unable to determine whether he had been mistaken or really had seen a creature moving in the forest.
He had about decided that he had but imagined a presence when a great, hairy brute of a man stepped suddenly from behind the bole of a tree.
THE creature was naked except for a bit of hide that hung from a leathern waist thong.
If Waldo viewed the newcomer with wonder, it was no less than the wonder which the sight of him inspired in the breast of the hairy one, for what he saw was as truly remarkable to his eyes as was his appearance to those of the cultured Bostonian. And Waldo did indeed present a most startling exterior. His six-feet-two was accentuated by his extreme skinniness; his gray eyes looked weak and watery within the inflamed circles which rimmed them, and which had been produced by loss of sleep and much weeping.
His yellow hair was tangled and matted, and streaked with dirt and blood. Blood stained his soiled and tattered ducks. His shirt was but a mass of frayed ribbons held to him at all only by the neck-band.
As he stood helplessly staring with bulging eyes at the awful figure glowering at him from the forest his jaw dropped, his knees trembled, and he seemed about to collapse from sheer terror.
Then the hideous man crouched and came creeping warily toward him.
With an agonized scream Waldo turned and fled toward the cliff. A quick glance over his shoulder brought another series of shrieks from the frightened fugitive, for it revealed not alone the fact that the awful man was pursuing him, but that behind him raced at least a dozen more equally frightful.
Waldo ran toward the cliffs only because that direction lay straight away from his pursuers. He had no idea what he should do when he reached the rocky barrier—he was far too frightened to think.
His pursuers were gaining upon him, their savage yells mingling with his piercing cries
and spurring him on to undreamed-of pinnacles of speed. As he ran, his knees came nearly to his shoulders at each frantic bound; his left hand was extended far ahead, clutching wildly at the air as though he were endeavoring to pull himself ahead, while his right hand, still grasping the cudgel, described a rapid circle, like the arm of a windmill gone mad. In action Waldo was an inspiring spectacle.
At the foot of the cliff he came to a momentary halt, while he glanced hurriedly about for a means of escape; but now he saw that the enemy had spread out toward the right and left, leaving no means of escape except up the precipitous side of the cliff. Up this narrow trails led steeply from ledge to ledge.
In places crude ladders scaled perpendicular heights from one tier of caves to the next above; but to Waldo the thing which confronted him seemed absolutely unscalable, and then another backward glance showed him the rapidly nearing enemy; and he launched himself at the face of that seemingly impregnable barrier, clutching desperately with fingers and toes.
His progress was impeded by the cudgel to which he still clung, but he did not drop it; though why it would have been difficult to tell, unless it was that his acts were not purely mechanical, there being no room in his mind for aught else than terror.
Close behind him came the foremost cave man; yet, though he had acquired the agility of a monkey through a lifetime of practice, he was amazed at the uncanny speed with which Waldo Emerson clawed his shrieking way aloft.
Halfway up the ascent, however, a great hairy hand came almost to his ankle. It was during the perilous negotiation of one of the loose and wobbly ladders—little more than small trees leaning precariously against the wobbly, perpendicular rocky surface—that the nearest foe-man came so close to the fugitive; but at the top chance intervened to save Waldo, for a time at least. It was at the moment that he scrambled frantically to a tiny ledge from the frightfully slipping sapling. In his haste he did by accident what a
resourceful man would have done by intent—in pushing himself onto the ledge he kicked the ladder outward—for a second it hung toppling in the balance, and then with a lunge crashed down the cliff's face with its human burden, in its fall scraping others of the pursuing horde with it.
A chorus of rage came up from below him, but Waldo had not even turned his head to learn of his temporary good fortune. Up, ever up he sped, until at length he stood upon the topmost ledge, facing an overhanging wall of blank rock that towered another twenty-five feet above him to the summit of the bluff.
Time and again he leaped futilely against the smooth surface, tearing at it with his nails in a mad endeavor to climb still higher. At his right was the low opening to a black cave, but he did not see it—his mind could cope with but the single idea: to clamber from the horrible creatures which pursued him. But finally it was borne in on his half- mad brain that this was the end—he could fly no farther—here, in a moment more, death would overtake him.
He turned to meet it, and below saw a number of the cave men placing another ladder in lieu of that which had fallen. In a moment they were resuming the ascent after him. On the narrow ledge above them the young man stood, chattering and grinning like a madman. His pitiful cries were now punctuated with the hollow coughing which his violent exercise had induced.
Tears rolled down his begrimed face, leaving crooked, muddy streaks in their wake. His knees smote together so violently that he could barely stand, and it was into the face of this apparition of cowardice that the first of the cave men looked as he scrambled above the ledge on which Waldo stood.
And then, of a sudden, there rose within the breast of Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones a spark that generations of over-refinement and emasculating culture had all but extinguished—the instinct of self-preservation by force. Heretofore it had been purely by flight. With the frenzy of the fear of death upon him, he raised his cudgel, and, swinging it high above his head, brought it down full upon the unprotected skull of his enemy.
Another took the fallen man's place—he, too, went down with a broken head. Waldo was fighting now like a cornered rat, and through it all he chattered and gibbered; but he no longer wept.
At first he was horrified at the bloody havoc he wrought with his crude weapon. His nature revolted at the sight of blood, and when he saw it mixed with matted hair along the side of his cudgel, and realized that it was human hair and human blood, and that he, Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones, had struck the blows that had plastered it there so thickly in all its hideousness, a wave of nausea swept over him, so that he almost toppled from his dizzy perch.
For a few minutes there was a lull in hostilities while the cave men congregated below, shaking their fists at Waldo and crying out threats and challenges. The young man stood looking down upon them, scarcely able to realize that alone he had met savage men in physical encounter and defeated them. He was shocked and horrified; not, odd to say, because of the thing he had done, but rather because of a strange and unaccountable
glow of pride in his brutal supremacy over brutes. What would his mother have thought could she have seen her precious boy now?
Suddenly Waldo became conscious from the corner of his eye that something was creeping upon him from behind out of the dark cave before which he had fought. Simultaneously with the realization of it he swung his cudgel in a wicked blow at this new enemy as he turned to meet it.
The creature dodged back, and the blow that would have crushed its skull grazed a hairbreadth from its face. Waldo struck no second blow, and the cold sweat sprang to his forehead when he realized how nearly he had come to murdering a young girl. She crouched now in the mouth of the cave, eying him fearfully. Waldo removed his tattered cap, bowing low.
"I crave your pardon," he said. "I had no idea that there was a lady here. I am very glad that I did not injure you."
There must have been something either in his tone or manner that reassured her, for she smiled and came out upon the ledge beside him.
As she did so a scarlet flush mantled Waldo's face and neck and ears—he could feel them burning. With a nervous cough he turned and became intently occupied with the distant scenery. Presently he cast a surreptitious glance behind him.
Shocking! She was still there. Again he coughed nervously.
"Excuse me," he said. "But—er—ah—you—I am a total stranger, you know; hadn't you better go back in, and—er—get your clothes?"
She made no reply, and so he forced himself to turn toward her once more. She was smiling at him.
Waldo had never been so horribly embarrassed in all his life before—it was a distinct shock to him to realize that the girl was not embarrassed at all.
He spoke to her a second time, and at last she answered; but in a tongue which he did not understand. It bore not the slightest resemblance to any language, modern or dead,
with which he was familiar, and Waldo was more or less master of them all—especially the dead ones.
He tried not to look at her after that, for he realized that he must appear very ridiculous.
But now his attention was required by more pressing affairs—the cave men were returning to the attack. They carried stones this time, and, while some of them threw the missiles at Waldo, the others attempted to rush his position. It was then that the girl hurried back into the cave, only to reappear a moment later carrying some stone utensils in her arms.
There was a huge mortar in which she had collected a pestle and several smaller pieces of stone. She pushed them along the ledge to Waldo. At first he did not grasp the meaning of her act; but presently she pretended to pick up an imaginary missile and hurl it down upon the creatures below—then she pointed to the things she had brought and to Waldo.
He understood. So she was upon his side. He did not understand why, but he was glad.
Following her suggestion, he gathered up a couple of the smaller objects and hurled them down upon the men beneath.
But on and on they came—Waldo was not a very good shot. The girl was busy now gathering much of the cave men's missiles as fell upon the ledge. These she placed in a pile beside Waldo.
Occasionally the young man would strike an enemy by accident, and then she would give a little scream of pleasure—clapping her hands and jumping up and down.
It was not long before Waldo was surprised to find that this applause fell sweetly upon his ears. It was then that he began to take better aim.
In the midst of it there flashed suddenly upon him a picture of his devoted mother and the select coterie of intellectual young people with which she had always surrounded him.
Waldo felt a new pang of horror as he tried to realize with what emotions they would look upon him now as he stood upon the face of a towering cliff beside an almost naked girl hurling rocks down upon the heads of hairy men who hopped about, screaming with rage, below him.
It was awful! A great billow of mortification rolled over him. He turned to cast a look of disapprobation at the shameless young woman behind him—she should not think that he countenanced such coarse and vulgar proceedings. Their eyes met—in hers he saw the sparkle of excitement and the joy of life and such a look of comradeship as he never before had seen in the eyes of another mortal.
Then she pointed excitedly over the edge of the ledge.
Waldo looked. A great brute of a cave man had crawled, unseen, almost to their refuge. He was but five feet below them, and at the moment that he looked up Waldo dropped a fifty-pound stone mortar full upon his upturned face.
The young woman emitted a little shriek of joy, and Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones, his face bisected by a broad grin, turned toward her.
THE mortar ended hostilities—temporarily, at least; but the cave men loitered about the
base of the cliff during the balance of the afternoon, occasionally shouting taunts at the two above them. These the girl answered, evidently in kind. Sometimes she would point to Waldo and make ferocious signs, doubtless indicative of the horrible slaughter which awaited them at his hands if they did not go away and leave their betters alone. When the young man realized the significance of her pantomime he felt his heart swell with an emotion which he feared was pride in brutal, primitive, vulgar physical prowess.
As the long day wore on Waldo became both very hungry and very thirsty. In the valley below he could see a tiny brooklet curling, clear and beautiful, toward the south. The sight of it drove him nearly mad, as did also that of the fruit which he glimpsed hanging ripe for eating at the edge of the forest.
By means of signs he asked the girl if she, too, were hungry, for he had come to a point now where he could look at her almost without visible signs of mortification. She nodded her head and, pointing toward the descending sun, made it plain to him that after dark they would descend and eat.
The cave men had not left when darkness came, and it seemed to Waldo a very foolhardy thing to venture down while they might be about; but the girl made it so evident that she considered him an invincible warrior that he was torn with the conflicting emotions of cowardice and an unaccountable desire to appear well in her eyes, that he might by his acts justify her belief in him.
It seemed very wonderful to Waldo that anyone should look upon him in the light of a tower of strength and a haven of refuge; he was not quite certain in his own mind but that the reputation might lead him into most uncomfortable and embarrassing situations.
Incidentally, he wondered if the girl was a good runner; he hoped so.
It must have been quite near midnight when his companion intimated that the time had
arrived when they should fare forth and dine. Waldo wanted her to go first, but she shrank close to him, timidly, and held back.
There was nothing else for it, then, than to take the plunge, though had the sun been shining it would have revealed a very pale and wide-eyed champion, who slipped gingerly over the side of the ledge to grope with his feet for a foothold beneath.
Halfway down the moon rose above the forest—a great, full, tropic moon, that lighted the face of the cliff almost as brilliantly as might the sun itself. It shone into the mouth of a cave upon the ledge that Waldo had just reached in his descent, revealing to the horrified eyes of the young man a great, hairy form stretched in slumber not a yard from him. As he looked, the wicked little eyes opened and looked straight into his.
With difficulty Waldo suppressed a shriek of dismay as he turned to plunge madly down the precipitous trail. The girl had not yet descended from the ledge above.
She must have sensed what had happened, for as Waldo turned to fly she gave a little cry of terror. At the same instant the cave man leaped to his feet. But the girl's voice had touched something in the breast of Waldo Emerson which generations of disuse had almost atrophied, and for the first time in his life he did a brave and courageous thing.
He could easily have escaped the cave man and reached the valley—alone; but at the first note of the young girl's cry he wheeled and scrambled back to the ledge to face the burly, primitive man, who could have crushed him with a single blow.
Waldo Emerson no longer trembled. His nerves and muscles were very steady as he swung his cudgel in an arc that brought it crashing down upon the upraised guarding arm of the cave man.
There was a snapping of bone beneath the blow, a scream of pain—the man staggered back, the girl sprang to Waldo's side from the ledge above, and hand in hand they turned and fled down the face of the cliff.
From a dozen cave-mouths above issued a score of cave men, but the fleeing pair were halfway across the clearing before the slow-witted brutes were fully aware of what had happened. By the time they had taken up the pursuit Waldo and the girl had entered the forest.
For a few yards the latter led Waldo straight into the shadows of the wood, then she turned abruptly toward the north, at right angles to the course they had been pursuing. She still clung to the young man's hand, nor did she slacken her speed the least after they
had entered the darkness beneath the trees. She ran as surely and confidently through the impenetrable night of the forest as though the way had been lighted by flaming arcs; but Waldo was continually stumbling and falling.
The sound of pursuit presently became fainter; it was apparent that the cave men had continued on straight into the wood; but the girl raced on with the panting Waldo for what seemed to the winded young man an eternity. Presently, however, they came to the banks of the little stream that had been visible from the caves. Here the girl fell into a walk, and a moment later dragged the Bostonian down a shelving bank into water that came above his knees. Up the bed of the stream she led him, sometimes floundering through holes so deep that they were entirely submerged.
Waldo had never learned the vulgar art of swimming, so it was that he would have drowned but for the strong, brown hand of his companion, which dragged him, spluttering and coughing, through one awful hole after another, until, half-strangled and entirely panic-stricken, she hauled him safely upon a low, grassy bank at the foot of a rocky wall which formed one side of a gorge, through which the river boiled.
It must not be assumed that when Waldo Emerson returned to face the hairy brute who threatened to separate him from his new-found companion that by a miracle he had been transformed from a hare into a lion—far from it.
Now that he had a moment in which to lie quite still and speculate upon the adventures of the past hour, the reaction came, and Waldo Emerson thanked the kindly night that obscured from the eyes of the girl the pitiable spectacle of his palsied limbs and trembling lip.
Once again he was in a blue funk, with shattered nerves that begged to cry aloud in the extremity of their terror.
It was not warm in the damp cañon, through which the wind swept over the cold water, so that to Waldo's mental anguish was added the physical discomfort of cold and wet. He was indeed a miserable figure as he lay huddled upon the sward, praying for the rising of the sun, yet dreading the daylight that might reveal him to his enemies.
But at last dawn came, and after a fitful sleep Waldo awoke to find himself in a snug and beautiful little paradise hemmed in by the high cliffs that flanked the river, upon a sloping grassy shore that was all but invisible except from a short stretch of cliff-top upon the farther side of the stream.
A few feet from him lay the girl.
She was still asleep. Her head was pillowed upon one firm, brown arm. Her soft black hair fell in disorder across one cheek and over the other arm, to spread gracefully upon the green grass about her.
As Waldo looked he saw that she was very comely. Never before had he seen a girl just like her. His young women friends had been rather prim and plain, with long, white faces and thin lips that scarcely ever dared to smile and scorned to unbend in plebeian laughter.
This girl's lips seemed to have been made for laughing—and for something else, though at the time it is only fair to Waldo to say that he did not realize the full possibilities that they presented.
As his eyes wandered along the lines of her young body his Puritanical training brought a hot flush of embarrassment to his face, and he deliberately turned his back upon her.
It was indeed awful to Waldo Emerson to contemplate, to say the least, the unconventional position into which fate had forced him. The longer he pondered it the redder he became. It was frightful—what would his mother say when she heard of it? What would this girl's mother say? But, more to the point, and—horrible thought—what would her father or her brothers do to Waldo if they found them thus together—and she with only a scanty garment of skin about her waist—a garment which reached scarcely below her knees at any point, and at others terminated far above?
Waldo was chagrined. He could not understand what the girl could be thinking of, for in other respects she seemed quite nice, and he was sure that the great eyes of hers reflected only goodness and innocence.
While he sat thus, thinking, the girl awoke and with a merry laugh addressed him. "Good morning," said Waldo quite severely.
He wished that he could speak her language, so that he could convey to her a suggestion of the disapprobation which he felt for her attire.
He was on the point of attempting it by signs, when she rose, lithe and graceful as a tigress, and walked to the river's brim. With a deft movement of her fingers she loosed the thong that held her single garment, and as it fell to the ground Waldo, with a horrified gasp, turned upon his face, burying his tightly closed eyes in his hands.
Then the girl dived into the cool waters for her matutinal bath.
She called to him several times to join her, but Waldo could not look at the spectacle presented; his soul was scandalized. It was some time after she emerged from the river before he dared risk a hesitating glance. With a sigh of relief he saw that she had donned her single garment, and thereafter he could look at her unashamed when she was thus clothed. He felt that by comparison it constituted a most modest gown.
Together they strolled along the river's edge gathering such fruits and roots as the girl knew to be edible. Waldo Emerson gathered those she indicated—with all his learning he found it necessary to depend upon the untutored mind of this little primitive maiden for guidance.
Then she taught him how to catch fish with a bent twig and a lightning-like movement of her brown hands—or, rather, tried to teach him, for he was far too slow and awkward to succeed.
Afterward they sat upon the soft grass beneath the shade of a wild fig-tree to eat the fish she had caught. Waldo wondered how in the world the girl could make fire without matches, for he was quite sure that she had none; and even should she be able to make fire it would be quite useless, since she had neither cooking utensils nor stove.
He was not left long in wonderment.
She arranged the fish in a little pile between them, and with a sweet smile motioned to the man to partake; then she selected one for herself, and while Waldo Emerson looked on in horror, sunk her firm, white teeth into the raw fish.
Waldo turned away in sickening disgust.
The girl seemed surprised and worried that he did not eat. Time and again she tried to coax him by signs to join her; but he could not even look at her. He had tried, after the first wave of revolt had subsided, but when he discovered that she ate the entire fish, without bothering to clean it or remove the scales, he became too ill to think of food.
Several times during the following week they ventured from their hiding-place, and at these times it was evident from the girl's actions that she was endeavoring to elude their enemies and reach a place of safety other than that in which they were concealed. But at each venture her quick ears or sensitive nostrils warned her of the proximity of danger, so that they had been compelled to hurry back into their little Eden.
During this period she taught Waldo many words of her native tongue, so that by means of signs to bridge the gaps between, they were able to communicate with a fair degree
of satisfaction. Waldo's mastery of the language was rapid.
On the tenth day the girl was able to make him understand that she wished to escape
with him to her own people; that these men among whom he had found her were enemies of her tribe, and that she had been hiding from them when Waldo stumbled upon her cave.
"I fled," she said. "My mother was killed. My father took another mate, always cruel to me. But when I had wandered into the land of these enemies I was afraid, and would have returned to my father's cave. But I had gone too far.
"I would have to run very fast to escape them. Once I ran down a narrow path to the ocean. It was dark.
"As I wandered through the woods I came suddenly out upon a beach, and there I saw a strange figure on the sand. It was you. I wanted to learn what manner of man you were. But I was very much afraid, so that I dared only watch you from a distance.
"Five times I came down to look at you. You never saw me until the last time, then you set out after me, roaring in a horrible voice.
"I was very much afraid, for I knew that you must be very brave to live all alone by the edge of the forest without any shelter, or even a stone to hurl at Nagoola, should he come out of the woods to devour you."
Waldo Emerson shuddered. "Who is Nagoola?" he asked. "You do not know Nagoola!" the girl exclaimed in surprise. "Not by that name," replied Waldo.
"He is as large," she began in description, "as two men, and black, with glossy coat. He has two yellow eyes, which see as well by night as by day. His great paws are armed with mighty claws. He—"
A rustling from the bushes which fringed the opposite cliff-top caused her to turn, instantly alert.
"Ah," she whispered, "there is Nagoola now." Waldo looked in the direction of her gaze.
It was well that the girl did not see his pallid face and popping eyes as he looked into the evil mask of the great black panther that crouched watching them from the river's further bank.
Into Waldo's breast came great panic. It was only because his fear-prostrated muscles refused to respond to his will that he did not scurry, screaming, from the sight of that ferocious countenance.
Then, through the fog of his cowardly terror, he heard again the girl's sweet voice: "I knew that you must be very brave to live all alone by the edge of that wicked forest."
For the first time in his life a wave of shame swept over Waldo Emerson.
The girl called in a taunting voice to the panther, and then turned, smiling, toward Waldo.
"How brave I am now," she laughed. "I am no longer afraid of Nagoola. You are with me."
"No," said Waldo Emerson, in a very weak voice, "you need not fear while I am with you."
"Oh!" she cried. "Slay him. How proud I should be to return to my people with one who vanquished Nagoola, and wore his hide about his loins as proof of his prowess."
"Y-yes," acquiesced Waldo faintly.
"But," continued the girl, "you have slain many of Nagoola's brothers and sisters. It is no longer sport to kill one of his kind."
"Yes—yes," cried Waldo. "Yes, that is it—panthers bore me now."
"Oh!" The girl clasped her hands in ecstasy. "How many have you slain?"
"Er—why, let me see," the young man blundered. "As a matter of fact, I never kept any record of the panthers I killed."
Waldo was becoming frantic. He had never lied before in all his life. He hated a lie and loathed a liar. He wondered why he had lied now.
Surely it were nothing to boast of to have butchered one of God's creatures—and as for claiming to have killed so many that he could not recall the number, it was little short of
horrible. Yet he became conscious of a poignant regret that he had not killed a thousand panthers, and preserved all the pelts as evidence of his valor.
The panther still regarded them from the safety of the farther shore. The girl drew quite close to Waldo in the instinctive plea for protection that belongs to her sex. She laid a timid hand upon his skinny arm and raised her great, trusting eyes to his face in reverent adoration.
"How do you kill them?" she whispered. "Tell me."
Then it was that Waldo determined to make a clean breast of it, and admit that he never before had seen a live panther. But as he opened his mouth to make the humiliating confession he realized, quite suddenly, why it was that he had lied—he wished to appear well in the eyes of this savage, half-clothed girl. He, Waldo Emerson Smith- Jones, craved the applause of a barbarian, and to win it had simulated that physical prowess which generations of Smith-Joneses had viewed from afar—disgusted, disapproving.
The girl repeated her question.
"Oh," said Waldo, "it is really quite simple. After I catch them I beat them severely with a stick."
The girl sighed. "How wonderful!" she said.
Waldo became the victim of a number of unpleasant emotions—mortification for this suddenly developed moral turpitude; apprehension for the future, when the girl might discover him in his true colors; fear, consuming, terrible fear, that she might insist upon his going forth at once to slay Nagoola. But she did nothing of the kind, and presently the panther tired of watching them and turned back into the tangle of bushes behind him.
It was with a sigh of relief that Waldo saw him depart.
[continued in Part Two]