[Illustration: _With a roar, the apemen charged._]
B. C. 30,000
By Capt. S. P. Meek
Back in the dim dawn of civilization
Anak the Hunter stands in his might
before the encroaching Neanderthal
of rage split the darkness. From the side of the fire where the
women sat darted Esle, the High Priestess, a bloody
bit of liver in her
hand. Following her, and snarling like an enraged cat, came one of the
maidens of the tribe. The aged hag, Esle, whose duty it was to declare
to the tribe the will of Degar Astok, the mighty
one who dwelt in the
heavens and sent the storms to enforce
his will, came to a pause before
Uglik, the Chief and tribal Father.
"Una was eating of the man's piece," she shrilled as she held the
Uglik dropped the thigh bone from which he had been ripping the meat in
huge chunks. He took the liver from Esle and examined it.
"Bring me my spear!" he roared as he lunged forward and grasped Una by
the hair. "Una has stolen
that which is tabu to her and I will punish
Una moaned with fright
but attempted no resistance. Uglik grasped his
spear and raised it over his head.
"Hold, Father!" came a clear voice from the group of hunters who sat
near the chief.
Uglik paused in amazement
at the interruption. Anak, the Chief Hunter,
rose to his feet and made a step forward.
"She stole it not," he said. "Anak, the Chief Hunter, gave it to her."
Uglik released the girl and stared at the hunter
in surprise. Anak
returned the stare coolly
and Uglik raised his throwing-spear
threateningly. Anak did not let his gaze wander
from the Father's, but
his grasp tightened ever so slightly
on the sharp flint smiting-stone
which he had taken from the skin pouch which dangled from his leather
waist belt before he had made his announcement.
"Anak, the Chief Hunter, gave it to her," he repeated
killed the buck, and half of the liver is, by the law of the tribe, his
of. Does the Father deny the right?"
* * * * *
Uglik lowered the point of his spear and thought rapidly. Anak's act
constituted unheard-of rebellion
against his authority. On the other
hand, the Chief Hunter was the cleverest tracker of the tribe and a
in battle. The tribe of Ugar had lost most of its
warriors in their long six-month march north from the fertile
where the Mediterranean Sea now rolls. Uglik was too wise a leader to
waste men on a trivial
quarrel, able though he felt himself to kill
Anak, should the latter cry the rannag, the duel to the death by which
the Father must at any time prove to any challenger, his right to rule.
"It is the right of the killer to dispose
of half of the liver of the
kill," he conceded. "It is also the right of the stronger to take what
he wills from the weaker. To Esle belongs the liver. The girl will not
be punished. Anak will join me at meat."
Anak's face flushed momentarily at the arrogant
tone of the Father's
ruling. He realized, as well as Uglik, what had caused the Father to
condone his semi-rebellion. He shrugged his shoulders and sat down
Uglik ate slowly, looking meditatively at Una as she tore off chunks of
the meat with her strong teeth and swallowed them. The girl was about
eighteen and in the first flush of womanhood. Her tawny brown skin
gleamed like satin in the firelight, which was reflected from her
slightly curling masses of black hair. She stood eight inches over five
feet and her entire body was built on generous
lines, lines of perfect
health and almost masculine
strength. Anak's eyes followed the direction
of Uglik's gaze and he grew thoughtful
"Is the Father satisfied with the Chief Hunter?" he asked ceremoniously.
"The Father is," replied Uglik in similar vein.
"Then the Chief Hunter has a boon to ask."
"I desire that maiden, Una, be given to me."
Uglik could hardly believe his ears. All of the women of the tribe
belonged of immemorial
right to the Father. While he might lend one for
a time to a favored hunter
as a mark of distinction, the suggestion
he completely relinquish
his claim to one of them, and a young and
handsome one at that, struck him with such astonishment
that he was
"I desire that the maiden, Una, be given to me," repeated
pleases me. I would have her carry my weapons on the march and sleep by
my side in the camp."
* * * * *
Uglik leaped to his feet, spear in hand, but before the Chief Hunter's
cool gaze, he wavered, again. Men were too scarce
to waste, unless it
"I will consider the matter," he said shortly. "I may lend her to you
for a time, but I will not give her to you. Such is not the law."
"The Father who ruled before you gave women to his favored hunters,"
replied Anak. "I was the son of such a one."
"And Degar Astok assumed the form of a lion and punished him for his
impiety by destroying him," retorted Uglik.
"Then Uglik killed the lion and so became Father," replied Anak, "since
none dared challenge
the slayer of Degar Astok. Is it not possible that
Esle, who was young and who favored Uglik in those days, made a mistake?
Despite his death, Degar Astok still has power."
Uglik's face flushed at the hunter's words.
"Degar Astok may be robbed of one body, but he still lives," he
answered. "Say no more. I will consider your request."
Anak saluted and strode
to the other side of the men's fire. He dropped
down beside Invar, the youngest of the hunters. It was on his
recommendation that Invar had been initiated into the ranks of manhood
full season before his time. The young hunter
looked up with adoration
in his eyes.
"This I saved for my friend, Anak," he said proudly
as he extended
generous chunk of liver. "Invar will be honored if his friend will eat
of the liver of his kill."
Anak took the morsel
with thanks and ate it slowly. His thoughts ran to
the tall maiden
whom he had requested from the Father, and his blood
boiled at the way he had been put off. He was half inclined to cry the
rannag, but he was not yet ready for the death duel which would
determine whether he or Uglik would rule the tribe. There was no other
solution, for, while he ruled, the Father's word was law, subject only
to the higher law of Degar Astok as given out by the High Priestess.
This overlordship was more nominal than actual, for those priestesses
who lived long lives were invariably
those who found that the will of
the Father coincided exactly with the law of Degar Astok. Anak revolved
the problem in his mind for a time, but the repletion of raw meat in his
stomach was not conducive to protracted thought. Gradually his head
slumped forward and he slept sitting. The other hunters followed his
example, leaving the youths from ten to seventeen to guard the camp,
keep the fires going, and rouse the hunters should need arise.
* * * * *
The night passed slowly without alarms. Womoo, the lion, roared in the
distance, and from near at hand came the coughing laugh of Kena, the
jackal, who always prowled around the camp when the tribe fed on meat.
Gradually the sky grew lighter. One of the children moaned in his sleep
and raised his head. He rose, and with a word to the youth on guard,
trotted off toward the stream
which gurgled near the camp. He
disappeared in the darkness. Suddenly there came a sudden scream, shut
off in mid-note. Hardly had the cry ceased than the hunters were on
their feet with spears ready in their hands.
"What is it?" cried Uglik.
"Loda went to the stream
to drink," stuttered the guard. "He screamed,
and I saw a gray shape run off into the darkness. It ran like Grup, the
bear, but it was small."
"Bring fire!" cried Anak.
The youth seized a burning brand and led the way toward the stream. By
the light of the torch Anak scrutinized the ground carefully. With a
sudden exclamation, he pointed
out to Uglik the print of a long and
narrow, but unmistakably human, foot in the mud by the river bank. Uglik
studied it carefully.
"What think you?" he demanded of Anak.
"It is the mark of man, yet not of our tribe," replied the Chief Hunter.
"Such marks have I never seen."
"Wait until Degar Astok sends the light," directed Uglik. "As soon as
you can trail, the hunters will go in pursuit."
* * * * *
Slowly the light grew brighter. As soon as he could pick out the trail,
Anak led the way, Uglik with the warriors and youths following closely.
The trail led straight up the valley
for a half mile before it turned
and followed a branch of the stream
which came from a ravine
valley wall. The hunters went a hundred yards up the ravine
Anak. The Chief Hunter paused and held up his hand. He sniffed the air
and then led the way cautiously
past a projecting shoulder of rock. On
a ledge, half way up the hillside, sat two monstrous
They were manlike and yet hardly man. Their bodies were covered with
stiff, coarse, gray hair which lengthened into a mane on the head and
neck. Their foreheads were low and receding, an impression
heightened by the enormously
developed brow ridges, although the cranial
capacity of the creatures was not small, as was evidenced by enormous
bulges at the back of their heads. They walked on two legs but with a
peculiar slouch, the torso inclined forward from the hips, and their
eyes bent perpetually on the ground. Their arms were long and at times
they bent forward so much that it appeared almost as though they were
going on all fours. A close examination
of their hands would have shown
that it was impossible for them to hold a needle
between the thumb and
"Gumor, the gray ape!" cried one of the hunters.
"It is not Gumor," replied Anak, "although they are like his cousins.
See what they eat!"
As the hunters of the Cro-Magnon tribe of Ugar saw the meat which the
Neanderthalers were tearing, a cry of wrath broke from them. Uglik
stepped forward and raised the war cry of the tribe. The Neanderthalers
looked stupidly down at him for a moment. The huge male dropped the meat
he was eating and rose, his mane and beard bristling with rage. With a
roar, he charged down the slope, a huge flint smiting-stone in either
* * * * *
The hunters closed up on Uglik. As the attacker came within range, he
was saluted with a shower
of stones which sprang
harmlessly from his
huge rounded chest. Uglik hurled his spear. It pierced the apeman's
shoulder but did not make him pause. Other spears were hurled and struck
their mark, but without a pause the Neanderthaler came on with howls of
rage and pain, bloody
froth flying from his lips.
Anak had not thrown his spear, and Invar, who stood beside his hero, had
likewise retained his weapon. The apeman came on with a rush. Uglik
sprang forward to meet him, but another hunter
was directly in the path
of the attack. He swung his flint smiting-stone with a will, but his
blow was futile. He went down before a sweep of the apeman's arm, his
skull crushed to fragments.
Uglik struck at the attacker. The Neanderthaler turned toward him, but
as he did so, Anak hurled his spear. At close range, the stone-tipped
weapon passed nearly through the apeman. He stopped his rush and began
to cough up blood from a pierced lung. Anak seized Invar's spear and
sprang to the attack. An unfledged youth who craved distinction, rushed
ahead of the Chief Hunter, but his act spelled his doom. One blow of the
huge smiting-stone laid him dead. Anak hurled Invar's spear and again
found its mark. The Neanderthaler roared with pain and sank
gradually to his knees. Uglik dashed in, knife in hand. He threw himself
on the prostratemonster
and stabbed him again and again. The blows
struck home, but with a last effort the apeman threw off his assailant
and struck at him with the huge stone which had already robbed the tribe
of two of its members. Before the blow could fall, Samo, one of the
hunters, threw himself in the way and took the blow on his arm. The arm
bone snapped like a pipestem, but it was the monster's dying effort.
With a shudder, he fell back dead.
* * * * *
howl rent the air. With a smiting-stone in each hand, the
female charged down at them. She was somewhat smaller than the male, but
still a match for any two of the men. Uglik's face paled as he wrenched
Invar's spear from the dead male and turned to face her. The howl was
repeated from farther up the ravine. Two more males were approaching at
run, smiting-stones in either hand. Uglik was a brave man,
but he was also a cautious
leader. He did not care to expose
to almost certain annihilation and he led a wild retreat
valley, Samo, with his arm hanging
limp, bringing up the rear. The
Neanderthalers did not follow into the open valley.
Again at the camping place, Uglik called his hunters into council. The
situation was grave enough. With the Neanderthalers so near them, it
meant eventual annihilation to stay where they were, yet there was no
place they could go. They had been driven
from their old home by hordes
of men who came up from the south. They had fought to retain
grounds where they had dwelt since the beginning
time, but a series
of defeats at the hands of overwhelming
dwindled down the tribe until a migration
was necessary. They had
followed the migrating game toward the unknown north.
Several times they had tried to stop, but each time they had found the
land in possession of other and stronger tribes. Their men had been
killed and their women stolen
until they again took up their march to
the north. From the hundred that had formerly
called Uglik "Father,"
there now remained only a score of women and children, a half dozen
youths, and five able-bodied hunters, besides Uglik.
South, they dared not go. North, there lay unknown horrors. West lay the
raging sea. East, the Neanderthalers blocked the way.
* * * * *
The council broke up with no action decided
on. Faced with the
alternatives of moving or staying, there seemed to be little choice.
Only death faced them, whichever
way they turned. Uglik posted guards
about the camp and announced that he would retire
Astok as to their future course.
As he disappeared into the woods, Esle sidled up to Anak.
"It seems that Degar Astok no longer loves Uglik," she said slyly. "Does
not the Chief Hunter agree with me?"
Anak looked at the withered hag coldly.
"Who am I to tell his Priestess whom Degar Astok loves?" he asked. "You
are his voice and should know."
"True, Anak, I am his voice, and the God loves me," she went on, "yet it
may be that men do not always love me. Uglik thinks that I have given
him false counsel
and he is ready for a new Priestess to announce the
will of Degar Astok to him. He believes that a new and younger Priestess
would bring back the favor of the God."
"What is that to me?" asked Anak.