We spent two days upon the cliff-top, resting and recuperating. There was som_mall game which gave us meat, and the little pools of rainwater wer_ufficient to quench our thirst. The sun came out a few hours after we emerge_rom the cave, and in its warmth we soon cast off the gloom which our recen_xperiences had saddled upon us.
Upon the morning of the third day we set out to search for a path down to th_alley. Below us, to the north, we saw a large pool lying at the foot of th_liffs, and in it we could discern the women of the Band-lu lying in th_hallow waters, while beyond and close to the base of the mighty barrier- cliffs there was a large party of Band-lu warriors going north to hunt. We ha_ splendid view from our lofty cliff-top. Dimly, to the west, we could see th_arther shore of the inland sea, and southwest the large southern islan_oomed distinctly before us. A little east of north was the northern island, which Ajor, shuddering, whispered was the home of the Wieroo—the land of Oo- oh. It lay at the far end of the lake and was barely visible to us, bein_ully sixty miles away.
From our elevation, and in a clearer atmosphere, it would have stood ou_istinctly; but the air of Caspak is heavy with moisture, with the result tha_istant objects are blurred and indistinct. Ajor also told me that th_ainland east of Oo-oh was her land—the land of the Galu. She pointed out th_liffs at its southern boundary, which mark the frontier, south of which lie_he country of Kro-lu—the archers. We now had but to pass through the balanc_f the Band-lu territory and that of the Kro-lu to be within the confines o_er own land; but that meant traversing thirty-five miles of hostile countr_illed with every imaginable terror, and possibly many beyond the powers o_magination. I would certainly have given a lot for my plane at that moment, for with it, twenty minutes would have landed us within the confines of Ajor'_ountry.
We finally found a place where we could slip over the edge of the cliff onto _arrow ledge which seemed to give evidence of being something of a game-pat_o the valley, though it apparently had not been used for some time. I lowere_jor at the end of my rifle and then slid over myself, and I am free to admi_hat my hair stood on end during the process, for the drop was considerabl_nd the ledge appallingly narrow, with a frightful drop sheer below down t_he rocks at the base of the cliff; but with Ajor there to catch and stead_e, I made it all right, and then we set off down the trail toward the valley.
There were two or three more bad places, but for the most part it was an eas_escent, and we came to the highest of the Band-lu caves without furthe_rouble. Here we went more slowly, lest we should be set upon by some membe_f the tribe.
We must have passed about half the Band-lu cave-levels before we wer_ccosted, and then a huge fellow stepped out in front of me, barring ou_urther progress.
"Who are you?" he asked; and he recognized me and I him, for he had been on_f those who had led me back into the cave and bound me the night that I ha_een captured. From me his gaze went to Ajor. He was a fine-looking man wit_lear, intelligent eyes, a good forehead and superb physique—by far th_ighest type of Caspakian I had yet seen, barring Ajor, of course.
"You are a true Galu," he said to Ajor, "but this man is of a different mold.
He has the face of a Galu, but his weapons and the strange skins he wears upo_is body are not of the Galus nor of Caspak. Who is he?"
"He is Tom," replied Ajor succinctly.
"There is no such people," asserted the Band-lu quite truthfully, toying wit_is spear in a most suggestive manner.
"My name is Tom," I explained, "and I am from a country beyond Caspak." _hought it best to propitiate him if possible, because of the necessity o_onserving ammunition as well as to avoid the loud alarm of a shot which migh_ring other Band-lu warriors upon us. "I am from America, a land of which yo_ever heard, and I am seeking others of my countrymen who are in Caspak an_rom whom I am lost. I have no quarrel with you or your people. Let us go ou_ay in peace."
"You are going there?" he asked, and pointed toward the north.
"I am," I replied.
He was silent for several minutes, apparently weighing some thought in hi_ind. At last he spoke. "What is that?" he asked. "And what is that?" H_ointed first at my rifle and then to my pistol.
"They are weapons," I replied, "weapons which kill at a great distance." _ointed to the women in the pool beneath us. "With this," I said, tapping m_istol, "I could kill as many of those women as I cared to, without moving _tep from where we now stand."
He looked his incredulity, but I went on. "And with this"—I weighed my rifl_t the balance in the palm of my right hand—"I could slay one of those distan_arriors." And I waved my left hand toward the tiny figures of the hunters fa_o the north.
The fellow laughed. "Do it," he cried derisively, "and then it may be that _hall believe the balance of your strange story."
"But I do not wish to kill any of them," I replied. "Why should I?"
"Why not?" he insisted. "They would have killed you when they had yo_risoner. They would kill you now if they could get their hands on you, an_hey would eat you into the bargain. But I know why you do not try it—it i_ecause you have spoken lies; your weapon will not kill at a great distance.
It is only a queerly wrought club. For all I know, you are nothing more than _owly Bo-lu."
"Why should you wish me to kill your own people?" I asked.
"They are no longer my people," he replied proudly. "Last night, in the ver_iddle of the night, the call came to me. Like that it came into my head"—an_e struck his hands together smartly once—"that I had risen. I have bee_aiting for it and expecting it for a long time; today I am a Krolu. Today _o into the coslupak" (unpeopled country, or literally, no man's land)
"between the Band-lu and the Kro-lu, and there I fashion my bow and my arrow_nd my shield; there I hunt the red deer for the leathern jerkin which is th_adge of my new estate. When these things are done, I can go to the chief o_he Kro-lu, and he dare not refuse me. That is why you may kill those lo_and-lu if you wish to live, for I am in a hurry.
"But why do you wish to kill me?" I asked.
He looked puzzled and finally gave it up. "I do not know," he admitted. "It i_he way in Caspak. If we do not kill, we shall be killed, therefore it is wis_o kill first whomever does not belong to one's own people. This morning I hi_n my cave till the others were gone upon the hunt, for I knew that they woul_now at once that I had become a Kro-lu and would kill me. They will kill m_f they find me in the coslupak; so will the Kro-lu if they come upon m_efore I have won my Kro-lu weapons and jerkin. You would kill me if yo_ould, and that is the reason I know that you speak lies when you say tha_our weapons will kill at a great distance. Would they, you would long sinc_ave killed me. Come! I have no more time to waste in words. I will spare th_oman and take her with me to the Kro-lu, for she is comely." And with that h_dvanced upon me with raised spear.
My rifle was at my hip at the ready. He was so close that I did not need t_aise it to my shoulder, having but to pull the trigger to send him int_ingdom Come whenever I chose; but yet I hesitated. It was difficult to brin_yself to take a human life. I could feel no enmity toward this savag_arbarian who acted almost as wholly upon instinct as might a wild beast, an_o the last moment I was determined to seek some way to avoid what now seeme_nevitable. Ajor stood at my shoulder, her knife ready in her hand and a snee_n her lips at his suggestion that he would take her with him.
Just as I thought I should have to fire, a chorus of screams broke from th_omen beneath us. I saw the man halt and glance downward, and following hi_xample my eyes took in the panic and its cause. The women had, evidently, been quitting the pool and slowly returning toward the caves, when they wer_onfronted by a monstrous cave-lion which stood directly between them an_heir cliffs in the center of the narrow path that led down to the pool amon_he tumbled rocks. Screaming, the women were rushing madly back to the pool.
"It will do them no good," remarked the man, a trace of excitement in hi_oice. "It will do them no good, for the lion will wait until they come ou_nd take as many as he can carry away; and there is one there," he added, _race of sadness in his tone, "whom I hoped would soon follow me to the Kro- lu. Together have we come up from the beginning." He raised his spear abov_is head and poised it ready to hurl downward at the lion. "She is nearest t_im," he muttered. "He will get her and she will never come to me among th_ro-lu, or ever thereafter. It is useless! No warrior lives who could hurl _eapon so great a distance."
But even as he spoke, I was leveling my rifle upon the great brute below; an_s he ceased speaking, I squeezed the trigger. My bullet must have struck to _air the point at which I had aimed, for it smashed the brute's spine back o_is shoulders and tore on through his heart, dropping him dead in his tracks.
For a moment the women were as terrified by the report of the rifle as the_ad been by the menace of the lion; but when they saw that the loud noise ha_vidently destroyed their enemy, they came creeping cautiously back to examin_he carcass.
The man, toward whom I had immediately turned after firing, lest he shoul_ursue his threatened attack, stood staring at me in amazement and admiration.
"Why," he asked, "if you could do that, did you not kill me long before?"
"I told you," I replied, "that I had no quarrel with you. I do not care t_ill men with whom I have no quarrel."
But he could not seem to get the idea through his head. "I can believe no_hat you are not of Caspak," he admitted, "for no Caspakian would hav_ermitted such an opportunity to escape him." This, however, I found later t_e an exaggeration, as the tribes of the west coast and even the Kro-lu of th_ast coast are far less bloodthirsty than he would have had me believe. "An_our weapon!" he continued. "You spoke true words when I thought you spok_ies." And then, suddenly: "Let us be friends!"
I turned to Ajor. "Can I trust him?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied. "Why not? Has he not asked to be friends?"
I was not at the time well enough acquainted with Caspakian ways to know tha_ruthfulness and loyalty are two of the strongest characteristics of thes_rimitive people. They are not sufficiently cultured to have become adept i_ypocrisy, treason and dissimulation. There are, of course, a few exceptions.
"We can go north together," continued the warrior. "I will fight for you, an_ou can fight for me. Until death will I serve you, for you have saved So-al, whom I had given up as dead." He threw down his spear and covered both hi_yes with the palms of his two hands. I looked inquiringly toward Ajor, wh_xplained as best she could that this was the form of the Caspakian oath o_llegiance. "You need never fear him after this," she concluded.
"What should I do?" I asked.
"Take his hands down from before his eyes and return his spear to him," sh_xplained.
I did as she bade, and the man seemed very pleased. I then asked what I shoul_ave done had I not wished to accept his friendship. They told me that had _alked away, the moment that I was out of sight of the warrior we would hav_ecome deadly enemies again. "But I could so easily have killed him as h_tood there defenseless!" I exclaimed.
"Yes," replied the warrior, "but no man with good sense blinds his eyes befor_ne whom he does not trust."
It was rather a decent compliment, and it taught me just how much I might rel_n the loyalty of my new friend. I was glad to have him with us, for he kne_he country and was evidently a fearless warrior. I wished that I might hav_ecruited a battalion like him.
As the women were now approaching the cliffs, Tomar the warrior suggested tha_e make our way to the valley before they could intercept us, as they migh_ttempt to detain us and were almost certain to set upon Ajor. So we hastene_own the narrow path, reaching the foot of the cliffs but a short distanc_head of the women. They called after us to stop; but we kept on at a rapi_alk, not wishing to have any trouble with them, which could only result i_he death of some of them.
We had proceeded about a mile when we heard some one behind us calling To-ma_y name, and when we stopped and looked around, we saw a woman running rapidl_oward us. As she approached nearer I could see that she was a very comel_reature, and like all her sex that I had seen in Caspak, apparently young.
"It is So-al!" exclaimed To-mar. "Is she mad that she follows me thus?"
In another moment the young woman stopped, panting, before us. She paid no_he slightest attention to Ajor or me; but devouring To-mar with her sparklin_yes, she cried: "I have risen! I have risen!"
"So-al!" was all that the man could say.
"Yes," she went on, "the call came to me just before I quit the pool; but _id not know that it had come to you. I can see it in your eyes, To-mar, m_o-mar! We shall go on together!" And she threw herself into his arms.
It was a very affecting sight, for it was evident that these two had bee_ates for a long time and that they had each thought that they were about t_e separated by that strange law of evolution which holds good in Caspak an_hich was slowly unfolding before my incredulous mind. I did not the_omprehend even a tithe of the wondrous process, which goes on eternall_ithin the confines of Caprona's barrier cliffs nor am I any too sure that _o even now.
To-mar explained to So-al that it was I who had killed the cave-lion and save_er life, and that Ajor was my woman and thus entitled to the same loyalt_hich was my due.
At first Ajor and So-al were like a couple of stranger cats on a back fenc_ut soon they began to accept each other under something of an armed truce, and later became fast friends. So-al was a mighty fine-looking girl, buil_ike a tigress as to strength and sinuosity, but withal sweet and womanly.
Ajor and I came to be very fond of her, and she was, I think, equally fond o_s. To-mar was very much of a man—a savage, if you will, but none the less _an.
Finding that traveling in company with To-mar made our journey both easier an_afer, Ajor and I did not continue on our way alone while the novitiate_elayed their approach to the Kro-lu country in order that they might properl_it themselves in the matter of arms and apparel, but remained with them. Thu_e became well acquainted—to such an extent that we looked forward with regre_o the day when they took their places among their new comrades and we shoul_e forced to continue upon our way alone. It was a matter of much concern t_o-mar that the Krolu would undoubtedly not receive Ajor and me in a friendl_anner, and that consequently we should have to avoid these people.
It would have been very helpful to us could we have made friends with them, a_heir country abutted directly upon that of the Galus. Their friendship woul_ave meant that Ajor's dangers were practically passed, and that I ha_ccomplished fully one-half of my long journey. In view of what I had passe_hrough, I often wondered what chance I had to complete that journey in searc_f my friends. The further south I should travel on the west side of th_sland, the more frightful would the dangers become as I neared the stamping- grounds of the more hideous reptilia and the haunts of the Alus and the Ho-lu, all of which were at the southern half of the island; and then if I should no_ind the members of my party, what was to become of me? I could not live fo_ong in any portion of Caspak with which I was familiar; the moment m_mmunition was exhausted, I should be as good as dead.
There was a chance that the Galus would receive me; but even Ajor could no_ay definitely whether they would or not, and even provided that they would, could I retrace my steps from the beginning, after failing to find my ow_eople, and return to the far northern land of Galus? I doubted it. However, _as learning from Ajor, who was more or less of a fatalist, a philosophy whic_as as necessary in Caspak to peace of mind as is faith to the devou_hristian of the outer world.