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Chapter 8 Nadara Again

  • WALDO watched him out of sight, half minded to follow, for he was far fro_atisfied that the fellow had been entirely honest with him. Why he shoul_ave been otherwise Waldo could not imagine, but nevertheless there had bee_n indefinable suggestion of duplicity in the man’s behavior that had puzzle_im.
  • However, Waldo took up his search toward the west, passing down from the hill_nto a deep valley, the bottom of which was overgrown by a thick tangle o_ropical jungle.
  • He had forced his way through this for nearly half a mile when he came to th_ank of a wide, slow-moving river. Its water was thick with sediment — no_lean, sparkling, and inviting, as were the little mountain streams of th_ills and valleys farther south.
  • Waldo traveled along the edge of the river in a northwesterly direction,
  • searching for a ford. The steep, muddy banks offered no foothold, so he dare_ot venture a crossing until he could be sure of a safe landing upon th_pposite shore.
  • A couple of hundred yards from the point at which he had come upon the strea_e found a broad trail leading down into the water, and on the other side sa_ similar track cutting up through the bank.
  • This, evidently, was the ford he sought, but as he started toward the river h_oticed the imprints of the feet of many animals — human and brute.
  • Waldo stooped to examine them minutely. There were the broad pads of Nagoola,
  • the smaller imprints of countless rodents, but back and forth among them al_ere old and new signs of man.
  • There were the great, flat-foot prints of huge adult males, the smaller bu_qually flat-footed impresses of the women and children; but one there wa_hat caught his eye particularly.
  • It was the fine and dainty outline of a perfect foot, with the arch wel_efined. It was new, as were many of the others, and, like the other newe_nes, it led down to the river and then back again, as though she who made i_ad come for water and then returned from whence she had come. Waldo knew tha_he tracks leading away from the river were the newer, because where the tw_rails overlapped those coming up from the ford were always over those whic_ed downward.
  • The multiplicity of signs indicated a considerable community, and thei_ewness the proximity of the makers.
  • Waldo hesitated but a moment before he reached a decision, and then he turne_p the trail away from the river, and at a rapid trot followed the spoor alon_ts winding course through the jungle to where it emerged at the base of th_oothills, to wind upward toward their crest.
  • He found that the trail he was following crossed the hills but a few yard_rom the spot at which he had met the cave man a short time before. Evidentl_he man had been returning from the river when he had espied Waldo.
  • The young man could see where the fellow’s tracks had left the main trail, an_e followed them to the point where the man had stood during his conversatio_ith Waldo; from there they led toward the east for a short distance, and the_urned suddenly north to reenter the main trail.
  • Waldo could see that as soon as the man had reached a point from which h_ould be safe from the stranger’s observation he had broken into a rapid trot,
  • and as he already had two hours’ start Waldo felt that he would have to hurr_ere he to overtake him.
  • Just why he wished to do so he did not consider, but, intuitively possibly, h_elt that the surly brute could give him much more and accurate informatio_han he had. Nor could Waldo eliminate the memory of those dainty feminin_ootprints.
  • It was foolish, of course, and he fully realized the fact; but his silly min_ould insist upon attributing them to the cave girl — Nadara.
  • For two hours he trotted doggedly along the trail, which for the most part wa_ell defined. There were places, of course, which taxed his trailing ability,
  • but by circling widely from these points he always was able to pick up th_racks again.
  • He had come down from the hills and entered an open forest, where the trai_as entirely lost in the mossy carpet that lay beneath the trees, when he wa_tartled by a scream — a woman’s scream — and the hoarse gutturals of two men,
  • deep and angry.
  • Hastening toward the sound, Waldo came upon the authors of the commotion in _ittle glade half hidden by surrounding bushes.
  • There were three actors in the hideous tragedy — a hairy brute dragging _rotesting girl by her long, black hair and an old man, who followed,
  • protesting futilely against the outrage that threatened the young woman.
  • None of them saw Waldo as he ran toward them until he was almost upon them,
  • and then the beast who grasped the girl looked up, and Waldo recognized him a_he same who had sent him toward the west earlier in the day.
  • At the same instant he saw the girl was Nadara.
  • In the brief interval that the recognition required there sloughed from th_eart and mind and soul of Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones every particle of th_ivilization and culture and refinement that had required countless ages i_he building, stripping him naked, age on age, down to the primordial beas_hat had begot his first human progenitor.
  • He saw red through blood as he leaped for the throat of the man-beast whos_uthless hands were upon Nadara.
  • His lip curled in the fighting snarl that exposed his long-unused canin_angs.
  • He forgot sword and shield and spear.
  • He was no longer a man, but a terrible beast; and the hairy brute tha_itnessed the metamorphosis blanched and shrank back in fear.
  • But he could not escape the fury of that mad charge or the raging creatur_hat sought his throat.
  • For a moment they struggled in a surging, swaying embrace, and then toppled t_he ground — the hairy one beneath.
  • Rolling, tearing, and biting, they battled — each seeking a death hold upo_he other.
  • Time and again the gleaming teeth of the once-fastidious Bostonian sank int_he breast and shoulder of his antagonist, but it was the jugular his prima_nstinct sought.
  • The girl and the old man had drawn away where they could watch the battle i_afety. Nadara’s eyes were wide in fascination.
  • Her slim, brown hands were tight pressed against her rapidly rising an_alling breasts as she leaned a little forward with parted lips, drinking i_very detail of the conflict between the two beasts.
  • Ah, but was the yellow-haired giant really fighting for possession of her, o_erely in protection, because she was a woman?
  • She could readily conceive from her knowledge of him that he :night be actin_ow solely from some peculiar sense of duty which she realized that he migh_ntertain, although she could not herself understand it.
  • Yes, that was it, and when he had conquered his rival he would run away again,
  • as he had months before. At the thought Nadara felt herself flush wit_ortification. No, he should never have another opportunity to repeat tha_errible affront.
  • As she allowed her mind to dwell on the humiliating moment that had witnesse_he discovery that Thandar had fled from her at the very threshold of her hom_adara found herself hating him again as fiercely as she had all these lon_onths — a hatred that had almost dissolved at sight of him as he rushed ou_f the underbrush a moment before to wrest her from the clutches of he_ideous tormentor.
  • Waldo and his antagonist were still tearing futilely at one another in ma_fforts to maim or kill. The giant muscles of the cave man gave him but littl_f any advantage over his agile, though slightly less-powerful, adversary.
  • The hairy one used his teeth to better advantage, with the result that Wald_as badly torn and bleeding from a dozen wounds.
  • Both were weakening now, and it seemed to the girl who watched that th_ounger man would be the first to succumb to the terrific strain under whic_oth had been. She took a step forward and, stooping, picked up a stone.
  • Her small strength would be ample to turn the scales as she might choose — _harp blow upon the head of either would give his adversary the triflin_dvantage that would spell death for the one she struck.
  • The two men had struggled to their feet again as she approached with raise_eapon.
  • At the very moment that it left her hand they swung completely round, so tha_aldo faced her, and in the instant before the missile struck his forehead h_aw Nadara in the very act of throwing — upon her face an expression of hatre_nd loathing.
  • Then he lost consciousness and went down, dragging with him the cave man, upo_hose throat his fingers had just found their hold.