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The Cave Girl

The Cave Girl

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 Flotsam

  • THE dim shadow of the thing was but a blur against the dim shadows of the woo_ehind it. The young man could distinguish no outline that might mark th_resence as either brute or human.
  • He could see no eyes, yet he knew that somewhere from out of that noiseles_ass stealthy eyes were fixed upon him.
  • This was the fourth time that the think had crept from out the wood a_arkness was settling — the fourth time during those three horrible week_ince 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’_dge.
  • It had never attacked him, but to his distorted imagination it seemed to slin_loser and closer as night fell — waiting, always waiting for the moment tha_t might find him unprepared.
  • Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones was not overly courageous. He had been reared amon_urroundings of culture plus and ultra-intellectuality in the exclusive Bac_ay home of his ancestors.
  • He had been taught to look with contempt upon all that savored of muscula_uperiority — 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 animate_ncyclopedia — and about as muscular as a real one.
  • Now he slunk shivering with fright at the very edge of the beach, as far fro_he grim forest as he could get.
  • Cold sweat broke from every pore of his long, lank, six-foot-two body. Hi_kinny arms and legs trembled as with palsy. Occasionally he coughed — it ha_een 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 th_lack 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 t_eet the wasting death that the doctor had predicted — a peaceful death a_east — 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 woul_ermit. As the slow minutes dragged into age-long hours, the nervous strai_old so heavily upon the weak boy that toward midnight he lapsed into mercifu_nconsciousness.
  • The warm sun awoke him the following morning, but it brought with it but _aint renewal of courage. Things could not creep to his side unseen now, bu_till they could come, for the sun would not protect him. Even now some savag_east might be lurking just within the forest.
  • The thought unnerved him to such an extent that he dared not venture to th_oods for the fruit that had formed the major portion of his sustenance. Alon_he 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, i_canning alternately the ocean and the forest’s edge — the one for a ship an_he other for the cruel death which he momentarily expected to see stalk ou_f the dreary shades to claim him.
  • A more practical and a braver man would have constructed some manner o_helter in which he might have spent his nights in comparative safety an_omfort, but Waldo Emerson’s education had been conducted along lines o_ndiluted intellectuality — pursuits and knowledge which were practical wer_ommonplace, 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 th_teamer’s deck and hurled him, choking and sputtering, upon this inhospitabl_hore, 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 glue_pon 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 passe_hrough four times before. That he should go mad he was positive, and h_ommenced to tremble and whimper even while daylight yet remained. For a tim_e tried turning his back to the forest, and then he sat huddled up gazing ou_pon the ocean; but the tears which rolled down his cheeks so blurred his eye_hat he saw nothing.
  • Finally he could endure it no longer, and with a sudden gasp of horror h_heeled toward the wood. There was nothing visible, yet he broke down an_obbed like a child, for loneliness and terror.
  • When he was able to control his tears for a moment he took the opportunity t_can 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 stoo_taring with protruding eyes at the vague form, while shriek after shrie_roke from his grinning lips.
  • Reason was tottering.
  • The thing, whatever it was, halted at the first blood-curdling cry, and the_hen the cries continued it slunk back toward the wood.
  • With what remained of his ebbing mentality Waldo Emerson realized that it wer_etter to die at once than face the awful fears of the black night. He woul_ush to meet his fate, and thus end this awful agony of suspense.
  • With the thought came action, so that, still shrieking, he rushed headlon_oward the thing at the wood’s rim. As he ran it turned and fled into th_orest, and after it went Waldo Emerson, his long, skinny legs carrying hi_maciated body in great leaps and bounds through the tearing underbrush.
  • He emitted shriek after shriek — ear-piercing shrieks that ended in long draw_ut wails, more wolfish than human. And the thing that fled through the nigh_efore him was shrieking, too, now.
  • Time and again the young man stumbled and fell. Thorns and brambles tore hi_lothing and his soft flesh. Blood smeared him from head to feet. Yet on an_n 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 o_blivion from its cruel clutch, Waldo Emerson had come to pursue the screamin_hadow before him from an entirely different motive. Now it was fo_ompanionship. He screamed now because of a fear that the thing would elud_im 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 realize_he fact he redoubled his efforts to overtake it. He had stopped screamin_ow, for the strain of his physical exertion found his weak lungs barel_dequate to the needs of his gasping respiration.
  • Suddenly the pursuit emerged from the forest to cross a little moonli_learing, at the opposite side of which towered a high and rocky cliff. Towar_his 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, an_eft the young man in blank despair.
  • With the object of pursuit gone, the reaction came, and Waldo Emerson san_rembling and exhausted at the foot of the cliff. A paroxysm of coughin_eized him, and thus he lay in an agony of apprehension, fright, and miser_ntil 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 th_raving of a starved stomach; yet it was with the utmost difficulty that h_rged his cowardly brain to direct his steps toward the forest, where hun_ruit 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 h_ntered 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 _iece of fallen limb, which tapered from a diameter of four inches at one en_o a trifle over an inch at the other. It was the first practical thing tha_aldo 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 practica_hing which he had ever done in all his life.
  • Waldo had never been allowed to read fiction, nor had he ever cared to s_aste his time or impoverish his brain, and nowhere in the fund of dee_rudition which he had accumulated could he recall any condition analogous t_hose which now confronted him.
  • Waldo, of course, knew that there were such things as step-ladders, and had h_ad one he would have used it as a means to reach the fruit above his hand’_each; but that he could knock the delicacies down with a broken branch seeme_ndeed a mighty discovery — a valuable addition to the sum total of huma_nowledge. 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 th_usty writing of the ancients, or directed by the immaculate mind of hi_uperior 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 th_ight before. It would, indeed, be curious to look upon a thing that feare_im. In all his life he had never imagined it possible that any creature coul_lee from him in fear. A little glow suffused the young man as the ide_imorously sought to take root.
  • Could it be that there was a trace of swagger in that long, bony figure a_aldo directed his steps toward the cliff? Perish the thought! Pride in vulga_hysical prowess! A long line of Smith-Joneses would have risen in thei_raves 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. _ozen times he passed a well-defined trail that led, winding, up the cliff’_ace; but Waldo knew nothing of trails — he was looking for a flight of step_r a doorway.
  • Finding neither, he stumbled by accident into the trail; and, although th_vident signs that marked it as such revealed nothing to him, yet he followe_t upward for the simple reason that it was the only place upon the cliff sid_here he could find a foothold.
  • Some distance up he came to a narrow cleft in the cliff into which the trai_ed. Rocks dislodged from above had fallen into it, and, becoming wedged a fe_eet from the bottom, left only a small cavelike hole, into which Wald_eered.
  • There was nothing visible, but the interior was dark and forbidding. Wald_elt 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 almos_vercame him. No! A thousand times no! Any fate were better than that, and s_fter several futile efforts he forced his unwilling body through the smal_perture.
  • He found himself on a path between two rocky walls — a path that rose befor_im at a steep angle. At intervals the blue sky was visible above throug_penings that had not been filled with debris.
  • To another it would have been apparent that the cleft had been kept open b_uman beings — that it was a thoroughfare which was used, if not frequently, at least sufficiently often to warrant considerable labor having been expende_pon it to keep it free from the debris which must be constantly falling fro_bove.
  • Where the path led, or what he expected to find at the other end, Waldo ha_ot the remotest idea. He was not an imaginative youth. But he kept on up th_scent in the hope that at the end he would find the creature which ha_scaped him the night before.
  • As it had fled for a brief instant across the clearing beneath the moon’s sof_ays, Waldo had thought that it bore a remarkable resemblance to a huma_igure; but of that he could not be positive.
  • At last his path broke suddenly into the sunlight. The walls on either sid_ere but little higher than his head, and a moment later he emerged from th_left onto a broad and beautiful plateau.
  • Before him stretched a wide, grassy plain, and beyond towered a range o_ighty hills. Between them and him lay a belt of forest.
  • A new emotion welled in the breast of Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones. It was aki_o that which Balboa may have felt when he gazed for the first time upon th_ighty Pacific from the Sierra de Quarequa. For the moment, as he contemplate_his new and beautiful scene of rolling meadowland, distant forest, an_errated hilltops, he almost forgot to be afraid. And on the impulse of th_nstant he set out across the tableland to explore the unknown which la_eyond the forest.
  • Well it was for Waldo Emerson’s peace of mind that no faint conception of wha_ay there entered his unimaginative mind.
  • To him a land without civilization — without cities and towns peopled b_umans with manners and customs similar to those which obtain in Boston — wa_eyond belief.
  • As he walked he strained his eyes in every direction for some indication o_uman habitation — a fence, a chimney — anything that would be man-built; bu_is efforts were unrewarded.
  • At the verge of the forest he halted, fearing to enter; but at last, when h_aw that the wood was more open than that near the ocean, and that there wa_ut little underbrush, he mustered sufficient courage to step timidly within.
  • On careful tiptoe he threaded his way through the parklike grove, stoppin_very few minutes to listen, and ready at the first note of danger to fl_creaming toward the open plain.
  • Notwithstanding his fears, he reached the opposite boundary of the fores_ithout seeing or hearing anything to arouse suspicion, and, emerging from th_ool 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 artificialit_f the caves suggest to the impractical Waldo that they might be th_abitations of perhaps savage human beings.
  • With the spell of discovery still upon him, he crossed the open toward th_liffs; 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 punctuate_y a timid halt and a searching survey of his surroundings.
  • It was during one of these halts, when he had crossed half the distanc_etween the forest and the cliff, that he discerned a slight movement in th_ood behind him.
  • For an instant he stood staring and frozen, unable to determine whether he ha_een 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, hair_rute of a man stepped suddenly from behind the bole of a tree.