THE creature was naked except for a bit of hide that hung from a leather_aist thong.
If Waldo viewed the newcomer with wonder, it was no less than the wonder whic_he sight of him inspired in the breast of the hairy one, for what he saw wa_s truly remarkable to his eyes as was his appearance to those of the culture_ostonian. And Waldo did indeed present a most startling exterior. His six- feet-two was accentuated by his extreme skinniness; his gray eyes looked wea_nd watery within the inflamed circles which rimmed them, and which had bee_roduced 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 o_rayed ribbons held to him at all only by the neck-band.
As he stood helplessly staring with bulging eyes at the awful figure glowerin_t him from the forest his jaw dropped, his knees trembled, and he seeme_bout 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 glanc_ver his shoulder brought another series of shrieks from the frightene_ugitive, for it revealed not alone the fact that the awful man was pursuin_im, but that behind him raced at least a dozen more equally frightful.
Waldo ran toward the cliffs only because that direction lay straight away fro_is pursuers. He had no idea what he should do when he reached the rock_arrier — he was far too frightened to think.
His pursuers were gaining upon him, their savage yells mingling with hi_iercing 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; hi_eft hand was extended far ahead, clutching wildly at the air as though h_ere endeavoring to pull himself ahead, while his right hand, still graspin_he cudgel, described a rapid circle, like the arm of a windmill gone mad. I_ction Waldo was an inspiring spectacle.
At the foot of the cliff he came to a momentary halt, while he glance_urriedly about for a means of escape; but now he saw that the enemy ha_pread out toward the right and left, leaving no means of escape except up th_recipitous side of the cliff. Up this narrow trails led steeply from ledge t_edge.
In places crude ladders scaled perpendicular heights from one tier of caves t_he next above; but to Waldo the thing which confronted him seemed absolutel_nscalable, and then another backward glance showed him the rapidly nearin_nemy; and he launched himself at the face of that seemingly impregnabl_arrier, clutching desperately with fingers and toes.
His progress was impeded by the cudgel to which he still clung, but he did no_rop it; though why it would have been difficult to tell, unless it was tha_is acts were not purely mechanical, there being no room in his mind for augh_lse than terror.
Close behind him came the foremost cave man; yet, though he had acquired th_gility of a monkey through a lifetime of practice, he was amazed at th_ncanny speed with which Waldo Emerson clawed his shrieking way aloft.
Half-way 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 wabbly ladders — little more than small trees leaning precariously against the perpendicula_ocky surface — that the nearest foe-man came so close to the fugitive; but a_he top chance intervened to save Waldo, for a time at least. It was at th_oment that he scrambled frantically to a tiny ledge from the frightfull_lipping sapling.
In his haste he did by accident what a resourceful man would have done b_ntent — in pushing himself onto the ledge he kicked the ladder outward — fo_ second it hung toppling in the balance, and then with a lunge crashed dow_he cliff’s face with its human burden, in its fall scraping others of th_ursuing horde with it.
A chorus of rage came up from below him, but Waldo had not even turned hi_ead to learn of his temporary good fortune.
Up, ever up he sped, until at length he stood upon the topmost ledge, facin_n overhanging wall of blank rock that towered another twenty-five feet abov_im to the summit of the bluff.
Time and again he leaped futilely against the smooth surface, tearing at i_ith 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 — hi_ind could cope with but the single idea: to clamber from the horribl_reatures which pursued him. But finally it was borne in on his half-mad brai_hat 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 anothe_adder in lieu of that which had fallen. In a moment they were resuming th_scent after him.
On the narrow ledge above them the young man stood, chattering and grinnin_ike a madman. His pitiful cries were not punctuated with the hollow coughin_hich his violent exercise had induced.
Tears rolled down his begrimed face, leaving crooked, muddy streaks in thei_ake. His knees smote together so violently that he could barely stand, and i_as into the face of this apparition of cowardice that the first of the cav_en 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 overrefinement and emasculating culture ha_ll but extinguished — the instinct of self-preservation by force. Heretofor_t 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 dow_ull 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 chattere_nd gibbered; but he no longer wept.
At first he was horrified at the bloody havoc he wrought with his crud_eapon. His nature revolted at the sight of blood, and when he saw it mixe_ith matted hair along the side of his cudgel, and realized that it was huma_air and human blood, and that he, Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones, had struck th_lows that had plastered it there so thickly in all its hideousness, a wave o_ausea 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 me_ongregated below, shaking their fists at Waldo and crying out threats an_hallenges. The young man stood looking down upon them, scarcely able t_ealize that alone he had met savage men in physical encounter and defeate_hem.
He was shocked and horrified; not, odd to say, because of the thing he ha_one, but rather because of a strange and unaccountable glow of pride in hi_rutal 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 wa_reeping 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 blo_t this new enemy as he turned to meet it.
The creature dodged back, and the blow that would have crushed its skul_razed a hairbreadth from its face.
Waldo struck no second blow, and the cold sweat sprang to his forehead when h_ealized how nearly he had come to murdering a young girl. She crouched now i_he 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. _m very glad that I did not injure you.” There must have been something eithe_n his tone or manner that reassured her, for she smiled and came out upon th_edge beside him.
As she did so a scarlet flush mantled Waldo’s face and neck and ears — h_ould feel them burning. With a nervous cough he turned and became intentl_ccupied 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 _istinct 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 whic_e 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 maste_f them all — especially the dead ones.
He tried not to look at her after that, for he realized that he must appea_ery ridiculous.
But now his attention was required by more pressing affairs — the cave me_ere returning to the attack. They carried stones this time, and, while som_f them threw the missiles at Waldo, the others attempted to rush hi_osition. It was then that the girl hurried back into the cave, only t_eappear a moment later carrying some stone utensils in her arms.
There was a huge mortar in which she had collected a pestle and severa_maller 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 pretende_o 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 wa_lad.
Following her suggestion, he gathered up a couple of the smaller objects an_urled them down upon the men beneath.
But on and on they came — Waldo was not a very good shot. The girl was bus_ow gathering such of the cave men’s missiles as fell upon the ledge. Thes_he placed in a pile beside Waldo.
Occasionally the young man would strike an enemy by accident, and then sh_ould give a little scream of pleasure — clapping her hands and jumping up an_own.
It was not long before Waldo was surprised to find that this applause fel_weetly 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 devote_other and the select coterie of intellectual young people with which she ha_lways surrounded him.
Waldo felt a new pang of horror as he tried to realize with what emotions the_ould look upon him now as he stood upon the face of a towering cliff besid_n almost naked girl hurling rocks down upon the heads of hairy men who hoppe_bout, 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 behin_im — she should not think that he countenanced such coarse and vulga_roceedings. Their eyes met — in hers he saw the sparkle of excitement and th_oy of life and such a look of comradeship as he never before had seen in th_yes 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 thei_efuge.
He was but five feet below them, and at the moment that he looked up Wald_ropped 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.