As I stood looking down upon that sad and lonely mound, wrapped
in the most dismal of reflections and premonitions, I was
suddenly seized from behind and thrown to earth. As I fell, a
warm body fell on top of me, and hands grasped my arms and legs.
When I could look up, I saw a number of giant fingers pinioning
me down, while others stood about surveying me. Here again was
a new type of man--a higher type than the primitive tribe I had
just quitted. They were a taller people, too, with better-shaped
skulls and more intelligent faces. There were less of the ape
characteristics about their features, and less of the negroid, too.
They carried weapons, stone-shod spears, stone knives, and hatchets--
and they wore ornaments and breech-cloths--the former of feathers
worn in their hair and the latter made of a single snake-skin cured
with the head on, the head depending to their knees.
Of course I did not take in all these details upon the instant of
my capture, for I was busy with other matters. Three of the
warriors were sitting upon me, trying to hold me down by main
strength and awkwardness, and they were having their hands full
in the doing, I can tell you. I don't like to appear conceited,
but I may as well admit that I am proud of my strength and the
science that I have acquired and developed in the directing of
it--that and my horsemanship I always have been proud of. And now,
that day, all the long hours that I had put into careful study,
practice and training brought me in two or three minutes a full
return upon my investment. Californians, as a rule, are familiar
with ju-jutsu, and I especially had made a study of it for several
years, both at school and in the gym of the Los Angeles Athletic
Club, while recently I had had, in my employ, a Jap who was a
wonder at the art.
It took me just about thirty seconds to break the elbow of one of
my assailants, trip another and send him stumbling backward among
his fellows, and throw the third completely over my head in such
a way that when he fell his neck was broken. In the instant that
the others of the party stood in mute and inactive surprise, I
unslung my rifle--which, carelessly, I had been carrying across
my back; and when they charged, as I felt they would, I put a
bullet in the forehead of one of them. This stopped them all
temporarily--not the death of their fellow, but the report of the
rifle, the first they had ever heard. Before they were ready to
attack me again, one of them spoke in a commanding tone to his
fellows, and in a language similar but still more comprehensive
than that of the tribe to the south, as theirs was more complete
than Ahm's. He commanded them to stand back and then he advanced
and addressed me.
He asked me who I was, from whence I came and what my intentions were.
I replied that I was a stranger in Caspak, that I was lost and that
my only desire was to find my way back to my companions. He asked
where they were and I told him toward the south somewhere, using
the Caspakian phrase which, literally translated, means "toward
the beginning." His surprise showed upon his face before he voiced
it in words. "There are no Galus there," he said.
"I tell you," I said angrily, "that I am from another country,
far from Caspak, far beyond the high cliffs. I do not know who
the Galus may be; I have never seen them. This is the farthest
north I have been. Look at me--look at my clothing and my weapons.
Have you ever seen a Galu or any other creature in Caspak who
possessed such things?"
He had to admit that he had not, and also that he was much
interested in me, my rifle and the way I had handled his
three warriors. Finally he became half convinced that I was
telling him the truth and offered to aid me if I would show him
how I had thrown the man over my head and also make him a present
of the "bang-spear," as he called it. I refused to give him my
rifle, but promised to show him the trick he wished to learn if
he would guide me in the right direction. He told me that he
would do so tomorrow, that it was too late today and that I might
come to their village and spend the night with them. I was loath
to lose so much time; but the fellow was obdurate, and so I
accompanied them. The two dead men they left where they had
fallen, nor gave them a second glance--thus cheap is life upon Caspak.
These people also were cave-dwellers, but their caves showed the
result of a higher intelligence that brought them a step nearer
to civilized man than the tribe next "toward the beginning."
The interiors of their caverns were cleared of rubbish, though
still far from clean, and they had pallets of dried grasses
covered with the skins of leopard, lynx, and bear, while before
the entrances were barriers of stone and small, rudely circular
stone ovens. The walls of the cavern to which I was conducted were
covered with drawings scratched upon the sandstone. There were
the outlines of the giant red-deer, of mammoths, of tigers and
other beasts. Here, as in the last tribe, there were no children
or any old people. The men of this tribe had two names, or
rather names of two syllables, and their language contained words
of two syllables; whereas in the tribe of Tsa the words were all
of a single syllable, with the exception of a very few like Atis
and Galus. The chief's name was To-jo, and his household
consisted of seven females and himself. These women were much
more comely, or rather less hideous than those of Tsa's people;
one of them, even, was almost pretty, being less hairy and having
a rather nice skin, with high coloring.
They were all much interested in me and examined my clothing and
equipment carefully, handling and feeling and smelling of each article.
I learned from them that their people were known as Bandlu, or
spear-men; Tsa's race was called Sto-lu-- hatchet-men. Below these
in the scale of evolution came the Bo-lu, or club-men, and then the
Alus, who had no weapons and no language. In that word I recognized
what to me seemed the most remarkable discovery I had made upon
Caprona, for unless it were mere coincidence, I had come upon a word
that had been handed down from the beginning of spoken language upon
earth, been handed down for millions of years, perhaps, with
little change. It was the sole remaining thread of the ancient
woof of a dawning culture which had been woven when Caprona was
a fiery mount upon a great land-mass teeming with life. It linked
the unfathomable then to the eternal now. And yet it may have been
pure coincidence; my better judgment tells me that it is coincidence
that in Caspak the term for speechless man is Alus, and in the outer
world of our own day it is Alalus.
The comely woman of whom I spoke was called So-ta, and she took
such a lively interest in me that To-jo finally objected to her
attentions, emphasizing his displeasure by knocking her down and
kicking her into a corner of the cavern. I leaped between them
while he was still kicking her, and obtaining a quick hold upon
him, dragged him screaming with pain from the cave. Then I made
him promise not to hurt the she again, upon pain of worse punishment.
So-ta gave me a grateful look; but To-jo and the balance of his women
were sullen and ominous.
Later in the evening So-ta confided to me that she was soon to
leave the tribe.
"So-ta soon to be Kro-lu," she confided in a low whisper. I asked
her what a Kro-lu might be, and she tried to explain, but I do not
yet know if I understood her. From her gestures I deduced that the
Kro-lus were a people who were armed with bows and arrows, had
vessels in which to cook their food and huts of some sort in which
they lived, and were accompanied by animals. It was all very
fragmentary and vague, but the idea seemed to be that the Kro-lus
were a more advanced people than the Band-lus. I pondered a long
time upon all that I had heard, before sleep came to me. I tried
to find some connection between these various races that would
explain the universal hope which each of them harbored that some
day they would become Galus. So-ta had given me a suggestion; but
the resulting idea was so weird that I could scarce even entertain
it; yet it coincided with Ahm's expressed hope, with the various
steps in evolution I had noted in the several tribes I had encountered
and with the range of type represented in each tribe. For example,
among the Band-lu were such types as So-ta, who seemed to me to be
the highest in the scale of evolution, and To-jo, who was just a
shade nearer the ape, while there were others who had flatter noses,
more prognathous faces and hairier bodies. The question puzzled me.
Possibly in the outer world the answer to it is locked in the bosom
of the Sphinx. Who knows? I do not.
Thinking the thoughts of a lunatic or a dope-fiend, I fell asleep;
and when I awoke, my hands and feet were securely tied and my
weapons had been taken from me. How they did it without awakening
me I cannot tell you. It was humiliating, but it was true.
To-jo stood above me. The early light of morning was dimly
filtering into the cave.
"Tell me," he demanded, "how to throw a man over my head
break his neck, for I am going to kill you, and I wish to know
this thing before you die."
Of all the ingenuous declarations I have ever heard, this one
copped the proverbial bun. It struck me as so funny that, even
in the face of death, I laughed. Death, I may remark here, had,
however, lost much of his terror for me. I had become a disciple
of Lys' fleeting philosophy of the valuelessness of human life.
I realized that she was quite right--that we were but comic figures
hopping from the cradle to the grave, of interest to practically
no other created thing than ourselves and our few intimates.
Behind To-jo stood So-ta. She raised one hand with the palm
toward me--the Caspakian equivalent of a negative shake of the head.
"Let me think about it," I parried, and To-jo said that he would
wait until night. He would give me a day to think it over; then
he left, and the women left--the men for the hunt, and the women,
as I later learned from So-ta, for the warm pool where they immersed
their bodies as did the shes of the Sto-lu. "Ata," explained So-ta,
when I questioned her as to the purpose of this matutinal rite;
but that was later.
I must have lain there bound and uncomfortable for two or three
hours when at last So-ta entered the cave. She carried a sharp
knife--mine, in fact, and with it she cut my bonds.
"Come!" she said. "So-ta will go with you back to the Galus.
It is time that So-ta left the Band-lu. Together we will go to
the Kro-lu, and after that the Galus. To-jo will kill you tonight.
He will kill So-ta if he knows that So-ta aided you. We will
"I will go with you to the Kro-lu," I replied, "but then
return to my own people `toward the beginning.'"
"You cannot go back," she said. "It is forbidden. They would
kill you. Thus far have you come--there is no returning."
"But I must return, I insisted. "My people are there. I must
return and lead them in this direction."
She insisted, and I insisted; but at last we compromised. I was
to escort her as far as the country of the Kro-lu and then I was
to go back after my own people and lead them north into a land
where the dangers were fewer and the people less murderous.
She brought me all my belongings that had been filched from
me--rifle, ammunition, knife, and thermos bottle, and then hand
in hand we descended the cliff and set off toward the north.
For three days we continued upon our way, until we arrived
outside a village of thatched huts just at dusk. So-ta said
that she would enter alone; I must not be seen if I did not
intend to remain, as it was forbidden that one should return
and live after having advanced this far. So she left me.
She was a dear girl and a stanch and true comrade--more like
a man than a woman. In her simple barbaric way she was both
refined and chaste. She had been the wife of To-jo. Among the
Kro-lu she would find another mate after the manner of the
strange Caspakian world; but she told me very frankly that
whenever I returned, she would leave her mate and come to me, as
she preferred me above all others. I was becoming a ladies' man
after a lifetime of bashfulness!
At the outskirts of the village I left her without even seeing
the sort of people who inhabited it, and set off through the
growing darkness toward the south. On the third day I made a
detour westward to avoid the country of the Band-lu, as I did not
care to be detained by a meeting with To-jo. On the sixth day I
came to the cliffs of the Sto-lu, and my heart beat fast as I
approached them, for here was Lys. Soon I would hold her tight
in my arms again; soon her warm lips would merge with mine.
I felt sure that she was still safe among the hatchet people, and
I was already picturing the joy and the love-light in her eyes
when she should see me once more as I emerged from the last clump
of trees and almost ran toward the cliffs.
It was late in the morning. The women must have returned from
the pool; yet as I drew near, I saw no sign of life whatever.
"They have remained longer," I thought; but when I was quite
close to the base of the cliffs, I saw that which dashed my hopes
and my happiness to earth. Strewn along the ground were a score
of mute and horrible suggestions of what had taken place during
my absence--bones picked clean of flesh, the bones of manlike
creatures, the bones of many of the tribe of Sto-lu; nor in any
cave was there sign of life.
Closely I examined the ghastly remains fearful each instant that
I should find the dainty skull that would shatter my happiness
for life; but though I searched diligently, picking up every
one of the twenty-odd skulls, I found none that was the skull
of a creature but slightly removed from the ape. Hope, then,
still lived. For another three days I searched north and south,
east and west for the hatchetmen of Caspak; but never a trace of
them did I find. It was raining most of the time now, and the
weather was as near cold as it ever seems to get on Caprona.
At last I gave up the search and set off toward Fort Dinosaur.
For a week--a week filled with the terrors and dangers of a
primeval world--I pushed on in the direction I thought was south.
The sun never shone; the rain scarcely ever ceased falling.
The beasts I met with were fewer in number but infinitely more
terrible in temper; yet I lived on until there came to me the
realization that I was hopelessly lost, that a year of sunshine
would not again give me my bearings; and while I was cast down by
this terrifying knowledge, the knowledge that I never again could
find Lys, I stumbled upon another grave--the grave of William James,
with its little crude headstone and its scrawled characters
recording that he had died upon the 13th of September--killed by
a saber-tooth tiger.
I think that I almost gave up then. Never in my life have I felt
more hopeless or helpless or alone. I was lost. I could not
find my friends. I did not even know that they still lived; in
fact, I could not bring myself to believe that they did. I was
sure that Lys was dead. I wanted myself to die, and yet I clung
to life--useless and hopeless and harrowing a thing as it had become.
I clung to life because some ancient, reptilian forbear had clung
to life and transmitted to me through the ages the most powerful
motive that guided his minute brain--the motive of self-preservation.
At last I came to the great barrier-cliffs; and after three days
of mad effort--of maniacal effort--I scaled them. I built crude
ladders; I wedged sticks in narrow fissures; I chopped toe-holds
and finger-holds with my long knife; but at last I scaled them.
Near the summit I came upon a huge cavern. It is the abode of
some mighty winged creature of the Triassic--or rather it was.
Now it is mine. I slew the thing and took its abode. I reached
the summit and looked out upon the broad gray terrible Pacific of
the far-southern winter. It was cold up there. It is cold here
today; yet here I sit watching, watching, watching for the thing
I know will never come--for a sail.
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Room | The
Land that Time Forgot