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Chapter 2 The Wild People

  • 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.