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Title: Allan and the Ice-gods
Author: H. Rider Haggard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0200201.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted: March 2002
Date most recently updated: March 2002

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ALLAN and THE ICE-GODS
A Tale of Beginnings
BY H. RIDER HAGGARD



    A fire mist and a planet,--
      A crystal and a cell,--
    A jellyfish and a saurian
      And caves where the cave men dwell;
    Then a sense of law and beauty,
      And a face turned from the clod,--
    Some call it Evolution
      And others call it God.

        From "Each In His Own Tongue,"
        by William Herbert Carruth




CHAPTER I



ALLAN REFUSES A FORTUNE


Had I the slightest qualification for the task, I, Allan Quatermain,
would like to write an essay on Temptation.

This, of course, comes to all, in one shape or another, or at any rate
to most, for there are some people so colourless, so invertebrate that
they cannot be tempted--or perhaps the subtle powers which surround
and direct, or misdirect, us do not think them worth an effort. These
cling to any conditions, moral or material, in which they may find
themselves, like limpets to a rock; or perhaps float along the stream
of circumstance like jellyfish, making no effort to find a path for
themselves in either case, and therefore die as they have lived--quite
good because nothing has ever moved them to be otherwise--the objects
of the approbation of the world, and, let us hope, of Heaven also.

The majority are not so fortunate; something is always egging their
living personalities along this or that road of mischief. Materialists
will explain to us that this something is but the passions inherited
from a thousand generations of unknown progenitors who, departing,
left the curse of their blood behind them. I, who am but a simple old
fellow, take another view, which, at any rate, is hallowed by many
centuries of human opinion. Yes, in this matter, as in sundry others,
I put aside all the modern talk and theories and am plumb for the
good, old-fashioned, and most efficient Devil as the author of our
woes. No one else could suit the lure so exactly to the appetite as
that old fisherman in the waters of the human soul, who knows so well
how to bait his hooks and change his flies so that they may be
attractive not only to all fish but to every mood of each of them.

Well, without going further with the argument, rightly or wrongly,
that is my opinion.

Thus, to take a very minor matter--for if the reader thinks that these
words are the prelude to telling a tale of murder or other great sins
he is mistaken--I believe that it was Satan himself, or, at any rate,
one of his agents, who caused my late friend, Lady Ragnall, to
bequeath to me the casket of the magical herb called /Taduki/, in
connection with which already we had shared certain remarkable
adventures.[*]

[*] See the books /The Ivory Child/ and /The Ancient Allan/.

Now, it may be argued that to make use of this /Taduki/ and on its
wings to be transported, in fact or in imagination, to some far-away
state in which one appears for a while to live and move and have one's
being is no crime, however rash the proceeding. Nor is it, since, if
we can find new roads to knowledge, or even to interesting imaginings,
why should we not take them? But to break one's word /is/ a crime, and
because of the temptation of this stuff, which, I confess, for me has
more allurement than anything else on earth, at any rate, in these
latter days, I have broken my word.

For, after a certain experience at Ragnall Castle, did I not swear to
myself and before Heaven that no power in the world, not even that of
Lady Ragnall herself, would induce me again to inhale those time-
dissolving fumes and look upon that which, perhaps designedly, is
hidden from the eyes of man; namely, revealments of his buried past,
or mayhap of his yet unacted future? What do I say? This business is
one of dreams--no more; though I think that those dreams are best left
unexplored, because they suggest too much and yet leave the soul
unsatisfied. Better the ignorance in which we are doomed to wander
than these liftings of corners of the veil; than these revelations
which excite delirious hopes that, after all, may be but marsh lights
which, when they vanish, will leave us in completer blackness.

Now I will get on to the story of my fall; of how it came about and
the revelations to which it led, and which I found interesting enough,
whatever others may think of them.

Elsewhere I have told how, years after our joint adventure into
Central Africa, once again I came into touch with the widowed Lady
Ragnall and allowed myself to be persuaded in her company to inhale
the charmed smoke of the /Taduki/ herb, with which she became familiar
when, in a state of mental collapse, she fell into the hands of the
priests of some strange African faith. Under its influence, the
curtain of time seemed to swing aside, and she and I saw ourselves
playing great parts as inhabitants of Egypt in the days of the Persian
domination. In that life, if the tale were true, we had been very
intimate, but before this intimacy culminated in actual union, the
curtain fell and we reawoke to our modern world.

Next morning, I went away, much confused and very frightened, nor did
I ever again set eyes upon the stately and beautiful Lady Ragnall.
After all that we had learned or dreamed, I felt that further meetings
would be awkward. Also, to tell the truth, I did not like the story of
the curse which was said to hang over the man who had to do with her
who, in it, was named Amada and filled the role of priestess of Isis,
the goddess whom she betrayed, in whatever generation might be born,
or perchance reborn. Of course, such ancient maledictions are the
merest nonsense. And yet--well, the truth is that in our separate
fashions we are all superstitious, and really the fate of Lord
Ragnall, who had married this lady, was most unpleasant and
suggestive; too much so to encourage anyone else to follow his
example. Further, I had come to a time of life when I did not wish for
more adventures in which women were mixed up, even in dreams; since
such, I have observed, however entrancing at the moment, lead to
trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

Thus it came about that when Lady Ragnall wrote asking me to stay with
her--as she did on two subsequent occasions--I put her off with
excuses which were perfectly valid, although at this moment I forget
what they may have been, it being my firm intention never again to
place myself within reach of her beauteous and commanding personality.
You see, in that dream we dreamed together, the story came to an end
just as I was about to marry the Princess and High Priestess Amada,
who was, or appeared to be, Lady Ragnall's prototype. Indeed, on
regaining her senses, she, whose vision lasted a second or two longer
than did mine, let it slip that we actually had been married in some
primitive Egyptian fashion, and I could see clearly enough, although I
knew it to be nonsense, she believed that this event had happened.

Now, even when the scene was laid a long while ago, it is extremely
awkward to foregather with an imperial woman who is firmly convinced
that she was once your wife, so awkward that, in the end, it might
have proved necessary to resume what she considered to be an
established, if an interrupted, relationship.

This, for sundry reasons, I was determined not to do, not the least of
them being that certainly I should have been set down as a fortune
hunter; also, as I have said, there was always the curse in the
background, which I hoped fondly would recognize my self-denial and
not operate in my direction. And yet--although to think of it makes me
feel cold down the back--if perchance that dream were true, already it
was incurred. Already I, Allan, the Shabaka of former days, am doomed
"to die by violence far from my own country where first I had looked
upon the sun," as its terms, recorded in the papyrus from Kandah-land,
of which I read a translation at the Castle, provide, with antique
directness and simplicity, as the lot of all and sundry who have ever
ventured to lay hands or lips upon the person of Amada, High Priestess
of Isis.

To return. In reply to my second letter of excuse, I received a quaint
little epistle from the lady to whom it had been written. It ran thus:


  Shabaka, why do you seek to escape the net of Fate when already
  you are enveloped in its meshes? You think that never more, seated
  side by side, shall we see the blue /Taduki/ smoke rise up toward
  us, or feel its subtle strength waft our souls afar.

  Perhaps this is so, though assuredly even here you are doomed to
  acknowledge its dominion, how often I do not know, and will you
  find it less to be feared alone than in my company? Moreover, from
  that company you never can escape, since it has been with you from
  time immemorial, if not continuously, and will be with you when
  there is no more sun.

  Yet, as it is your wish, until we meet again in the past or in the
  future, farewell, O Shabaka.

                                                          Amada.


When I had finished reading this very peculiar note, of which the
envelope, by the way, was sealed with the ancient Egyptian ring that
my late friend Lord Ragnall had found and given to his wife just
before his terrible fate overtook him, literally I felt faint and lay
back in my chair to recover myself. Really, she was an ominous and, in
her way, rather creepy woman, one unlike all others, one who seemed to
be in touch with that which, doubtless by intention, is hidden from
mankind. Now it came back to me that, when first I met her as the Hon.
Luna Holmes and was so interested in her at the Ragnall Castle dinner
party before her marriage, I was impressed with this ominous quality
which seemed to flow from her, as, had he been more sensitive, her
future husband would have been also.

During our subsequent association in Africa, too, it had always been
with me, and, of course, it was in full force through our joint
experience with the /Taduki/ herb. Now again it flowed up in me like
an unsealed fountain and drowned my judgment, washing the ordered
reason on which I prided myself from its foundations. Also, in this
confusion, another truth emerged, namely, that from the first moment I
set my eyes on her I had always been attracted by and, in a kind of
hidden way, "in love" with her. It was not a violent and passionate
sort of affection, but then the same man can love sundry women in
different ways, all of which are real enough.

Yet I knew that it was permanent. For a little while her phantasies
got a hold upon me, and I began to believe that we always had been and
always should be mixed up together; also that, in some undeclared
fashion, I was under deep obligations to her, that she had stood my
friend, not once but often, and so would stand while our personalities
continued to endure. True, she had been Ragnall's wife, yet--and this
through no personal vanity, since Heaven knows that this vice is
lacking in me--of a sudden I became convinced that it was to me that
her nature really turned and not to Ragnall. I did not seek it, I did
not even hope that it was so, for surely she was his possession, not
mine, and I wanted to rob no man. Yet in that moment there the fact
loomed before me large and solid as a mountain, a calm, immovable
mountain, a snow-capped volcano, apparently extinct, that still, one
day, might break into flames and overwhelm me, taking me as its
possession upon wings of fire.

Such were my reflections during the moments of weakness which followed
the shock I had received from that remarkable letter, outwardly and
visibly so final, yet inwardly and spiritually opening up vast avenues
of unexpected possibilities. Presently, they passed with the faintness
and I was my own man again. Whatever she might or might not be, so far
as I was concerned, there was an end to my active association with
Lady Ragnall--at any rate, until I was certain that she was rid of her
store of /Taduki/. As she admitted in her curiously worded
communication, that book was closed for our lives, and any
speculations concerning the past and the future, when we were not in
being, remained so futile that about them it was unnecessary to
trouble.

A little while later, I read in a newspaper, under the head of
"Fashionable Intelligence," that Lady Ragnall had left England to
spend the winter in Egypt, and, knowing all her associations with that
country, I marvelled at her courage. What had taken her there, I
wondered; then shrugged my shoulders and let the matter be.

Six weeks or so afterward, I was out shooting driven partridges. A
covey came over me, of which I got two. As I thrust new cartridges
into my gun, I saw approaching me, flying very fast and high, a couple
of wild duck that I suppose had been disturbed from some pond by the
distant beaters. I closed the gun and lifted it, being particularly
anxious to bag those wild duck, which were somewhat rare in the
neighbourhood, especially at that season of the year. At that moment I
was smitten by a most extraordinary series of impressions that had to
do with Egypt and Lady Ragnall, the last things I had been thinking of
a minute before.

I seemed to see a desert and ruins that I knew to be those of a
temple, and Lady Ragnall herself seated among them, holding up a
sunshade which suddenly fell onto the sand. This illusion passed, to
be followed by another; namely, that she was with me, talking to me
very earnestly but in a joyful, vigorous voice, only in a language of
which I could not understand one word. Yet the burden of her speech
seemed to reach my mind; it was to the effect that now we should
always be near to each other, as we had been in the past.

Then all was gone, nor can those impressions have endured for long,
seeing that, when they began, I was pointing my gun at the wild duck,
and they left me before the dead birds touched the ground for,
automatically, I went on with the business at hand, nor did my
accustomed skill desert me.

Setting down the fancy as once of those queer mental pranks that
cannot be explained--unless, in this instance, it was due to something
I had eaten at lunch--I thought no more about it for two whole days.
Then I thought a great deal, for, on opening my newspaper, which
reached the Grange about three o'clock, that is exactly forty-eight
hours after my telepathic experience, or whatever it may have been,
the first thing that my eye fell on among the foreign telegrams was
the following from Cairo:


  A message has been received here conveying the sad intelligence of
  the sudden death yesterday of Lady Ragnall, the widow of the late
  Lord Ragnall, who, as a famous Egyptologist, was very well known
  in Egypt, where he came to a tragic end some years ago. Lady
  Ragnall, who was noted for her wealth and beauty, was visiting the
  ruins of a temple of Isis which stands a little way back from the
  east bank of the Nile between Luxor and Assouan, where her husband
  met with his fatal accident while engaged in its excavation.
  Indeed, she was seated by the monument erected on the sand which
  entombed him so deeply that his body was never recovered, when
  suddenly she sank back and expired. The English medical officer
  from Luxor certified heart disease as the cause of death and she
  has been buried where she died, this ground having been
  consecrated at the time of the decease of Lord Ragnall.


If I had felt queer when I received Lady Ragnall's mystical letter
before she left for Egypt, now I felt much queerer. Then I was
perplexed; now I was terrified, and, what is more, greatly moved.
Again that conviction came to me that, deep down in my being, I was
attached, unchangeably attached, to this strange and charming woman,
and that with hers my destiny was intertwined. If this were not so,
indeed, why had her passing become known to me, of all people and in
so incongruous a fashion, for, although the hour of her death was not
stated, I had little doubt that it occurred at the very moment when I
shot the wild duck.

Now I wished that I had not refused to visit her, and even that I had
given her some proof of my regard by asking her to marry me,
notwithstanding her great wealth, the fact that I had been her
husband's friend, and all the rest. No doubt, she would have refused;
still, the quiet devotion of even so humble an individual as myself
might have pleased her. However, regrets came too late; she was dead
and all between us at an end.

A few weeks later, I discovered that here I was mistaken, for, after a
preliminary telegram inquiring whether I was in residence at the
Grange, which I answered on a prepaid form to the address of some
unknown lawyers in London, there arrived at lunch time on the
following day a gentleman of the name of Mellis, evidently one of the
firm of Mellis & Mellis who had sent me the telegram. He was shown in
and, without waiting for luncheon, said:

"I believe I am addressing Mr. Allan Quatermain."

I bowed and he went on:

"I come upon a strange errand, Mr. Quatermain, so strange that I doubt
whether, in the course of your life, which as I have heard has been
full of adventure, you have ever known its equal. You were, I believe,
well acquainted with our late client, Lord Ragnall, also with his
wife, Lady Ragnall, formerly the Hon. Luna Holmes, of whose recent sad
death you may perhaps have heard."

I said that this was so, and the lawyer went on in his dry precise
way, watching my face as he spoke:

"It would appear, Mr. Quatermain, that Lady Ragnall must have been
much attached to you, since, a while ago, after a visit that you paid
to her at Ragnall Castle, she came to our office and made a will, a
thing I may add that we had never been able to persuade her to do.
Under that will--as you will see presently, for I have brought a copy
with me--she left everything she possessed, that is, all the great
Ragnall property and accumulated personalty of which she had the power
to dispose at her unfettered discretion, to--ahem--to /you/."

"Great heavens!" I exclaimed, and sank back into a chair.

"As I do not sail under false colours," went on Mr. Mellis with a dry
smile, "I may as well tell you at once that both I and my partner
protested vehemently against the execution of such a will, for reasons
that seemed good to us but which I need not set out. She remained firm
as a rock.

"'You think I am mad,' she said. 'Foreseeing this, I have taken the
precaution of visiting two eminent London specialists to whom I told
all my history, including that of the mental obscuration from which I
suffered for a while as the result of shock. Each of these examined me
carefully and subjected me to tests with the result--but here are
their certificates and you can judge for yourselves.'

"I, or rather we, read the certificates, which, of course, we have
preserved. To be brief, they stated that her ladyship was of
absolutely sound and normal mind, although certain of her theories
might be thought unusual, but not more so than those of thousands of
others, some of them eminent in various walks of life. In face of
these documents, which were entirely endorsed by our own observation,
there was but one thing to do, namely, to prepare the will in
accordance with our client's clear and definite instructions. While we
were writing these down, she said suddenly:

"'Something has occurred to me. I shall never change my mind, nor
shall I remarry, but, from my knowledge of Mr. Quatermain, I think it
possible and even probable that he will refuse this great inheritance'
--a statement, sir, which struck us as so incredible that we made no
comment.

"'In that event,' she continued, 'I wish all the real property to be
realized and together with the personalty, except certain legacies, to
be divided among the societies, institutions, and charities that are
written down upon this list,' and she handed us a document, 'unless
indeed Mr. Quatermain, whom, should he survive me, I leave my sole
executor, should disapprove of any of them.'

"Do you now understand the situation, sir?"

"Quite," I answered. "That is, no doubt I shall when I have read the
will. Meanwhile, I suggest that you must be hungry after your journey
and that we should have lunch."

So we lunched, talking of indifferent matters while the servants were
in the room, and afterward returned to my study, where the documents
were read and expounded to me by Mr. Mellis. To cut the story short,
it seemed that my inheritance was enormous; I am afraid to state from
memory at what figure it was provisionally valued. Subject to certain
reservations, such as an injection that no part of the total, either
in land or in money, was to be alienated in favour of Mr. Atterby-
Smith, a relative of Lord Ragnall whom the testatrix held in great
dislike, or any member of his family, and that, for part of the year,
I must inhabit Ragnall Castle, which might not be sold during my
lifetime, or even let. All this vast fortune was left at my absolute
disposal, both during my life and after my death. Failure to observe
these trusts might, it seemed, invalidate the will. In the event of my
renouncing the inheritance, however, Ragnall Castle, with a suitable
endowment, was to become a county hospital, and the rest of the estate
was to be divided in accordance with the list that I have mentioned--a
very admirable list, but one which excluded any society or institution
of a sectarian nature.

"Now I think that I have explained everything," said Mr. Mellis at
length, "except a minor and rather peculiar provision as to your
acceptance of certain relics, particularly described by the testatrix
in a sealed letter which I will hand to you presently. So it only
remains for me, Mr. Quatermain, to ask you to sign a document which I
have already prepared and brought with me, to enable me to deal with
these great matters on your behalf. That is," he added with a bow,
"should you propose to continue that confidence in our firm with which
the family of the late Lord Ragnall has honoured it for several
generations."

While he was hunting in his bag for this paper, explaining, as he did
so, that I must be prepared to face an action brought by Mr. Atterby-
Smith, who had been raging round his office "like a wild animal,"
suddenly I made up my mind.

"Don't bother about that paper, Mr. Mellis," I said, "because Lady
Ragnall was right in her supposition. I have no intention of accepting
this inheritance. The estate must go for division to the charities,
etcetera, set down in her list."

The lawyer heard, and stared at me.

"In my life," he gasped at last, "I have known mad testators and mad
heirs, but never before have I come across a case where both the
testator and the heir were mad. Perhaps, sir, you will be pleased to
explain."

"With pleasure," I said when I had finished lighting my pipe. "In the
first place, I am already what is called a rich man and I do not want
to be bothered with more money and property."

"But, Mr. Quatermain," he interrupted, "you have a son who, with such
wealth behind him, might rise to anything--yes, anything." (This was
true, for, at that time, my boy Harry was living.)

"Yes, but, as it chances, Mr. Mellis, I have ideas upon this matter
which you may think peculiar. I do not wish my son to begin life with
enormous resources, or even the prospect of them. I wish him to fight
his own way in the world. He is going to be a doctor. When he has
succeeded in his profession and learned what it means to earn one's
own bread, it will be time for him to come into other people's money.
Already I have explained this to him with reference to my own, and
being a sensible youth, he agrees with me."

"I daresay," groaned the lawyer. "Such--well, failings--as yours, are
often hereditary."

"Another thing is," I went on, "that I do not wish to be bothered by a
lawsuit with Mr. Atterby-Smith. Further, I cannot bind myself to live
half the year in Ragnall Castle in a kind of ducal state. Very likely,
before all is done, I might want to return to Africa, which then I
could not do. In short, it comes to this: I accept the executorship
and my out-of-pocket expenses, and shall ask your firm to act for me
in the matter. The fortune I positively and finally refuse, as you
observe Lady Ragnall thought it probable I should do."

Mr. Mellis rose and looked at the clock. "If you will allow me to
order the dogcart," he said, "I think there is just time for me to
catch the afternoon train up to town. Meanwhile, I propose to leave
you a copy of the will and of the other documents to study at your
leisure, including the sealed letter which you have not yet read.
Perhaps after taking independent advice, from your own solicitors and
friends, you will write me your views in a few days' time. Until then,
this conversation of ours goes for nothing. I consider it entirely
preliminary and without prejudice."

The dogcart came round--indeed, it was already waiting--and thus this
remarkable interview ended. From the doorstep I watched the departure
of Mr. Mellis and saw him turn, look at me, and shake his head
solemnly. Evidently he thought that the right place for me was a
lunatic asylum.

"Thank goodness, that's done with!" I said to myself. "Now I'll order
a trap and go and tell Curtis and Good about all the business. No, I
won't; they'll only think me mad as that lawyer does, and argue with
me. I'll take a walk and mark those oaks that have to come down next
spring. But first I had better put away these papers."

Thus I reflected and began to collect the documents. Lifting the copy
of the will, I saw lying beneath it the sealed letter of which Mr.
Mellis had spoken, addressed to me and marked


  To be delivered after my death, or in the event of Mr. Quatermain
  pre-deceasing me, to be burned unread.


The sight of that well-known writing and the thought that she who
penned it was now departed from the world and that nevermore would my
eyes behold her, moved me. I laid the letter down, then took it up
again, broke the seal, seated myself, and read as follows:


  My dear friend, my dearest friend, for so I may call you, knowing
  as I do that if ever you see these words we shall no longer be
  fellow citizens of the world. They are true words, because between
  you and me there is a closer tie than you imagine, at any rate, at
  present. You thought our Egyptian vision to be a dream--no more; I
  believe it, on the other hand, at least in essentials, to be a
  record of facts that have happened in bygone ages. Moreover, I
  will tell you now that my revelation went further than your own.
  Shabaka and Amada were married and I saw them as man and wife
  leading a host southward to found a new empire somewhere in
  Central Africa, of which perchance the Kendah tribe were the last
  remnant. Then the darkness fell.

  Moreover, I am certain that this was not the first time that we
  had been associated upon the earth, as I am almost certain that it
  will not be the last. This mystery I cannot understand or explain,
  yet it is so. In some of our manifold existences we have been
  bound together by the bonds of destiny, as in some we may have
  been bound to others, and so, I suppose, it will continue to
  happen, perhaps for ever and ever.

  Now, as I know that you hate long letters, I will tell you why I
  write. I am going to make a will, leaving you practically
  everything I possess--which is a great deal. As there is no
  relationship or other tie between us, this may seem a strange
  thing to do, but after all, why not? I am alone in the world,
  without a relative of any kind. Nor had my late husband any except
  some distant cousins, those Atterby-Smiths whom you may remember,
  and these he detested even more than I do, which is saying much. On
  one point I am determined--that they shall never inherit, and that
  is why I make this will in such a hurry, having just received a
  warning that my own life may not be much prolonged.

  Now, I do not deceive myself. I know you to be no money-hunter and
  I think it highly probable that you will shrink from the
  responsibilities of this fortune which, if it came to you, you
  would feel it your duty to administer it for the good of many to
  the weariness of your own flesh and spirit. Nor would you like the
  gossip in which it would involve you, or the worry of the actions-
  at-law which the Atterby-Smiths, and perhaps others unknown, would
  certainly bring against you. Therefore, it seems possible that you
  will refuse my gift, a contingency for which I have provided by
  alternative depositions. If a widowed lady without connections
  chooses to dispose of her goods in charity or for the advancement
  of science, etc., no one can complain. But even in this event I
  warn you that you will not altogether escape, since I am making
  you my soul executor, and although I have jotted down a list of
  the institutions which I propose to benefit, you will be given an
  absolute discretion concerning them with power to vary the
  amounts, and add to, or lessen, their number. In return for this
  trouble, should you yourself renounce the inheritance, I am
  leaving you an executor's fee of 5,000 pounds, which I beg that you
  will   not renounce, as the mere thought of your doing so offends me.
  Also, as a personal gift, I ask you to accept all that famous set
  of Caroline silver which was used on grand occasions at Ragnall,
  that I remember you admired so much, and any other objects of art
  that you may choose.

  Lastly--and this is the really important thing--together with the
  Egyptian collection, I pass on to you the chest of /Taduki/ herb
  with the Kendah brazier, etc., enjoining you most strictly, if
  ever you held me in any friendship, to take it, and above all to
  keep it sacred.

  In this, Friend, you will not fail me. Observe, I do not direct
  you to make further experiments with the /Taduki/. To begin with,
  it is unnecessary, since, although you have recently refused to do
  so in my company--perhaps because you were afraid of complications
  --sooner or later you will certainly breathe it by yourself,
  knowing that it would please me much, and, perhaps, when I am
  dead, hoping that through it you may see more of me than you did
  when I was alive. You know the dead often increase in value at
  compound interest, and I am vain enough to hope that this may be
  so in my case.

  I have no more to say. Farewell--for a little while.

    Luna Ragnall.

  P.S. You can burn this letter if you like; it does not in the
  least matter, as you will never forget its contents. How
  interesting it will be to talk it over with you one day.




CHAPTER II



BACK TO THE PAST


It is unnecessary that I should set out the history of the disposal of
the great Ragnall fortune in any detail. I adhered to my decision
which at last was recorded with much formality; though, as I was a
totally unknown individual, few took any interest in the matter. Those
who came to hear of it for the most part set me down as mad; indeed, I
could see that even my friends and neighbours, Sir Henry Curtis and
Captain Good, with whom I declined to discuss the business, more or
less shared this view, while a society journal of the lower sort
printed a paragraph headed:


  THE HUNTER HERMIT. IVORY TRADER WHO MOCKED AT MILLIONS!


Then followed a distorted version of the facts. Also I received
anonymous letters written, I do not doubt, by members of the Atterby-
Smith family, which set down my self-denial to "the workings of a
guilty conscience" and "to fears of exposure."

Of all these things I took no heed, and notwithstanding wild threats
of action by Mr. Atterby-Smith, in due course the alternative clauses
of the will came into operation, under which, with only a rough list
to guide me, I found myself the practical dispenser of vast sums. Then
indeed I "endured hardness." Not only had collieries and other
properties to be sold to the best advantage, not only was I afflicted
by constant interviews with Messrs. Mellis & Mellis and troubles too
numerous to mention. In addition to these, I think that every society
and charity in the United Kingdom and quite eighty per cent. of its
beggars must have written or sought interviews with me to urge their
public or private claims, so that, in the end, I was obliged to fly
away and hide myself, leaving the lawyers to deal with the
correspondence and the mendicants.

At length I completed my list, allotting the bulk of the money to
learned societies, especially such of them as dealt with archaeological
matters in which the testatrix and her husband had been interested; to
those who laboured among the poor; to the restoration of an abbey in
which I had heard Lady Ragnall express great interest, and to the
endowment of the castle as a local hospital in accordance with her
wish.

This division having been approved and ratified by an order in Court,
my duties came to an end. Further, my fee as executor was paid me,
which I took without scruple, for seldom has money been harder earned,
and the magnificent service of ancient plate was handed over to me--or
rather to the custody of my bank--with the result that I have never
set eyes upon it from that day to this, and probably never shall.

Also, I selected certain souvenirs, including a beautiful portrait of
Lady Ragnall by a noted artist, painted before her marriage,
concerning which there was a tragic story whereof I have written
elsewhere. This picture I hung in my dining room where I can see it as
I sit at table, so that never a day passes that I do not think twice
or thrice of her whose young loveliness it represents. Indeed, I think
of her so much that often I wish I had placed it somewhere else.

The Egyptian collection I gave to a museum which I will not name; only
the chest of /Taduki/ and the other articles connected with it I kept,
as I was bound to do, hiding them away in a bookcase in my study and
hoping that I should forget where I had put them, an effort wherein I
failed entirely. Indeed, that chest might have been alive to judge
from the persistence with which it inflicted itself upon my mind, just
as if someone were imprisoned in the bookcase. It was stowed away in
the bottom part of an old Chippendale bookcase which stood exactly
behind my writing chair and which I had taken over as a fixture when I
bought the Grange. Now this chair, that I am using at the moment of
writing, is one of the sort that revolves, and, heedless of the work I
had to do, continually I found myself turning it round so that I sat
staring at the bookcase instead of at my desk.

This went on for some days, until I began to wonder whether there was
anything wrong; whether, for instance, I had placed the articles so
that they could fall over and my subconscious self was reminding me of
the fact. At length, one evening after dinner, this idea fidgeted me
so much that I could bear it no more. Going to my bedroom, I opened
the little safe that stands there and took out the key of the bookcase
which I had stowed away so that I could not get at it without some
trouble. Returning, I unlocked the faded mahogany door of the
Eighteenth Century bookcase and was surprised when it opened itself
very quickly, as if something were pushing at it.

Next moment, I saw the reason. My subconscious self had been right.
Owing, I suppose, to insufficient light when I put them away, I had
set the ebony tripod upon which rested the black stone bowl that
formerly was used in the /Taduki/ ceremonies in the sanctuary of the
temple in Kendah-land, whence Lady Ragnall had brought it, so that one
of its feet projected over the edge of the shelf. Thus it pressed
against the door, and when it was opened, of course fell forward. I
caught it, rather smartly, I flattered myself, or rather I caught the
bowl, which was very heavy, and the tripod fell to the floor. Setting
down the bowl on the hearthrug which was near, I picked up its stand
and made a hasty examination, fearing lest the brittle, short-grained
wood should have broken. It had not; its condition was as perfect as
when it was first used, perhaps thousands of years before.

Next, that I might examine this curiosity with more care than I had
ever yet done, I placed the bowl upon its stand to consider its shape
and ornamentation. Though so massive, I saw that in its way it was a
beautiful thing, and the heads of the women carved upon the handles
were so full of life that I think they must have been modelled from a
living person. Perhaps that model was the priestess who had first used
it in her sacred rites of offering or of divination, or perhaps Amada
herself, to whom, now that I thought of it, the resemblance was great,
as I had seen her in my /Taduki/ dream.

The eyes (for both handles were identical) seemed fixed on me in a
solemn and mystical stare; the parted lips looked as though they were
uttering words of invitation. To what did they invite? Alas! I knew
too well: it was that I should burn /Taduki/ in the bowl so that they
might be opened by its magic and tell me of hidden things.

Nonsense! I thought to myself. Moreover, I remembered that one must
never take /Taduki/ after drinking wine. Then I remembered something
else; namely, that, as it happened, at dinner that night I had drunk
nothing but water, having for some reason or other preferred it to
claret or port. Also, I had eaten precious little--I suppose because I
was not hungry. Or could it be that I was a humbug and had done these
things, or rather left them undone, so that should temptation overtake
me its results might not prove fatal? Upon my word, I did not know,
for on such occasions it is difficult to disentangle the exact motives
of the heart.

Moreover, this speculation was forgotten in a new and convincing idea
that suddenly I conceived. Doubtless, the virtues, or the vices, of
/Taduki/ were all humbug, or rather nonexistent. What caused the
illusions was the magnetic personalities of the ministrants, that is
to say, of Lady Ragnall herself and, on my first acquaintance with it,
here in England, of that remarkable old medicine man, Harut. Without
these personalities, and especially the first who was now departed
from the earth, it would be as harmless as tobacco and as ineffectual
as hay. So delighted was I with this discovery that almost I
determined to prove it by immediate demonstration.

I opened the carved chest of rich-coloured wood and drew out the age-
blackened silver box within which now I observed for the first time
had engraved upon it several times a picture of the goddess Isis in
her accustomed ceremonial dress, and a god, Osiris or Ptah, I think,
making incantations with their hands, holding lotus flowers and the
Cross of Life stretched out over a little altar. This I opened also,
whereon a well-remembered aroma arose and for a moment clouded my
senses. When these cleared again, I perceived, lying on the top of the
bundles of /Taduki/ leaves, of which there seemed to be a large
quantity remaining, a half sheet of letter paper bearing a few lines
in Lady Ragnall's handwriting.

I lifted it and read as follows:


  My Friend:

  When you are moved to inhale this /Taduki/, as certainly you will
  do, be careful not to use too much lest you should wander so far
  that you can return no more. One of the little bundles, of which I
  think there are thirteen remaining in the box, should be
  sufficient, though perhaps as you grow accustomed to the drug you
  may require a larger dose. Another thing--for a hidden reason with
  which I will not trouble you, it is desirable, though not
  necessary, that you should have a companion in the adventure. By
  preference, this companion should be a woman, but a man will serve
  if he be one in whom you have confidence and who is sympathetic to
  you.
                                                            L.R.


"That settles it," I thought. "I am not going to take /Taduki/ with
one of the housemaids, and there is no other woman about here," and I
rose from my chair, preparing to put the stuff away.

At that moment, the door opened and in walked Captain Good.

"Hullo, old fellow," he said. "Curtis says a farmer tells him that a
lot of snipe have come in onto the Brathal marshes, and he wants to
know if you will come over to-morrow morning and have a go at them--I
say, what is this smell in the room? Have you taken to scented
cigarettes or hashish?"

"Not quite, but, to tell you the truth, I was thinking of it," I
answered, and I pointed to the open silver box.

Good, who is a person of alert mind and one very full of curiosity,
advanced, sniffed at the /Taduki/, and examined the brazier and the
box, which in his ignorance he supposed to be of Grecian workmanship.
Finally, he overwhelmed me with so many questions that, at length, in
self-defence, I told him something of its story and how it had been
bequeathed to me with its contents by Lady Ragnall.

"Indeed!" said Good. "She who left you the fortune which you wouldn't
take, being the lineal descendant of Don Quixote, or rather of Sancho
Panza's donkey. Well, this is much more exciting than money. What
happened to you when you went into that trance?"

"Oh!" I answered wearily, "I seemed to foregather with a very pretty
lady who lived some thousands of years ago, and after many adventures,
was just about to marry her when I woke up."

"How jolly! though I suppose you have been suffering from blighted
affections ever since. Perhaps, if you took some more, you might pull
it off next time."

I shook my head and handed him the note of instructions that I had
found with the /Taduki/, which he read with attention, and said:

"I see, Allan, that a partner is required and that failing a lady, a
man in whom you have confidence and who is sympathetic to you, will
serve. Obviously that's me, for in whom could you have greater
confidence, and who is more sympathetic to you? Well, my boy, if
there's any hope of adventures, real or imaginary, I'll take the risk
and sacrifice myself upon the altar of friendship. Light up your
stuff--I'm ready. What do you say? That I can't because I have been
dining and drinking wine or whisky? Well, as a matter of fact, I
haven't. I've only had some tea and a boiled egg--I won't stop to
explain why--and intended to raise something more substantial out of
you. So fire away and let's go to meet your lovely lady in ancient
Egypt or anywhere else."

"Look here, Good," I explained, "I think there is a certain amount of
risk about this stuff, and really you had better reflect----"

"Before I rush in where angels fear to tread, eh? Well, you've done it
and you ain't even an angel. Also I like risks or anything that makes
a change in this mill round of a life. Come on. What have we got to
do?"

Then, feeling that Fate was at work, under a return of the impulse of
which the strength had been broken for a moment by the reading of Lady
Ragnall's note of instructions, I gave way. To tell the truth, Good's
unexpected arrival when such a companion was essential, and his
strange willingness, and even desire, to share in this unusual
enterprise, brought on one of the fits of fatalism from which I suffer
at times. I became convinced that the whole business was arranged by
something or somebody beyond my ken--that I must take this drug with
Good as my companion. So, as I have said, I gave way and made the
necessary preparations, explaining everything to Good as I did so.

"I say!" he said at last, just as I was fishing for an ember from the
wood fire to lay upon the /Taduki/ in the bowl, "I thought this job
was a joke, but you seem jolly solemn about it, Allan. Do you really
think it dangerous?"

"Yes, I do, but more to the spirit than to the body. I think, to judge
from my own experience, that anyone who has once breathed /Taduki/
will wish to do so again. Shall we give it up? It isn't too late."

"No," answered Good. "I never funked anything yet, and I won't begin
now. 'Lay on, Macduff'!"

"So be it, Good. But first of all, listen to me. Move that armchair of
yours close to mine, but not quite up against it. I am going to place
the brazier just between and a little in front of us. When the stuff
catches a blue flame will burn for about thirty seconds--at least,
this happened on a previous occasion. So soon as it dies away and you
see the smoke begin to rise, bend your head forward and a little
sideways so that it strikes you full in the face, but in such a
fashion that, when you become insensible, the weight of your body will
cause you to fall back into the chair, not outward to the floor. It is
quite easy if you are careful. Then open your mouth and draw the
vapour down into your lungs. Two or three breaths will suffice, as it
works very quickly."

"Just like laughing gas," remarked Good. "I only hope I shan't wake
with all my teeth out. The last time I took it I felt----"

"Stop joking," I said, "for this is a serious matter."

"A jolly sight too serious! Is there anything else?"

"No. That is, if there is anybody you particularly wish to see, you
might concentrate your thoughts on him----"

"Him! I can't think of any him, unless it is the navigating lieutenant
of my first ship, with whom I always want to have it out in the next
world, as he is gone from this, the brute."

"On her, then; I meant her."

"Then why didn't you say so instead of indulging in pharisaical
humbug? Who would breathe poison just to meet another man?"

"I would," I replied firmly.

"That's a lie," muttered Good. "Hullo! don't be in such a hurry with
that coal, I ain't ready. Ought I to say any hocus-pocus? Dash it all!
it is like a nightmare about being hanged."

"No," I replied, as I dropped the ember onto the /Taduki/ just as Lady
Ragnall had done. "Now, play fair, Good," I added, "for I don't know
what the effect of half a dose would be; it might drive you mad. Look,
the flame is burning! Open your mouth and arrange your weight as I
said, and when your head begins to whirl, lean back at the end of the
third deep breath."

The mysterious, billowy vapour arose as the pale blue flame died away,
and spread itself out fanwise.

"Aye, aye, my hearty," said Good, and thrust his face into it with
such vigour that he brought his head into violent contact with mine,
as I leant forward from the other side.

I heard him mutter some words that were better left unsaid, for often
enough Good's language would have borne editing. Then I heard no more
and forgot that he existed.

My mind became wonderfully clear and I found myself arguing in a
fashion that would have done credit to the greatest of the Greek
philosophers upon all sorts of fundamental problems. All I can
remember about that argument or lecture is that, in part at any rate,
it dealt with the possibility of reincarnation, setting out the pros
and cons in a most vivid manner.

Even if I had not forgotten them, these may be passed over, as they
are familiar to students of such subjects. The end of the exposition,
however, was to the effect that, accepted as it is by a quarter of the
inhabitants of the earth, this doctrine should not lightly be set
aside, seeing that in it there is hope for man; that it is at least
worthy of consideration. If the sages who have preached it, from Plato
down--and indeed for countless ages before his time, since without
doubt he borrowed it from the East--are right, then at least we pure
human creatures do not appear and die like gnats upon a summer's eve,
but in that seeming day pass on to life eternally renewed, climbing a
kind of Jacob's ladder to the skies.

It is true that as our foot leaves it, each rung of that ladder
vanishes. Below is darkness and all the gulf of Time. Above is
darkness and we know not what. Yet our hands cling to the uprights and
our feet stand firm upon a rung, and we know that we do not fall, but
mount; also that, in the nature of things, a ladder must lean against
some support and lead somewhere. A melancholy business, this tread
mill doctrine, it may be said, where one rung is so like another and
there are so many of them. And yet, and yet--is it not better than
that of the bubble which bursts and is gone? Aye, because life is
better than death, especially if it be progressive life, and if at
last it may lead to some joy undreamed, to some supernal light in
which we shall see all the path that we have trodden, and with it the
deep foundations of the Rock of Being upon which our ladder stands and
the gates of Eternal Calm whereon it leans.

Thus, in the beginning of my dream state, I, the lecturer, argued to
an unknown audience, or perhaps I was the audience and the lecturer
argued to me, I am not sure, pointing out that otherwise we are but as
those unhappy victims of the Revolution in the prisons of Paris, who
for a little while bow and talk and play our part, waiting till the
door opens and the jailer Death appears to lead us to the tumbril and
the knife.

The argument, I should point out, was purely rational; it did not deal
with faith, or any revealed religion, perhaps because these are too
personal and too holy. It dealt only with the possible development of
a mighty law, under the workings of which man, through much
tribulation, might accomplish his own weal and at last come to look
upon the source of that law and understand its purpose.

Obviously these imperfectly reported reflections, and many others that
I cannot remember at all, were induced by the feeling that I might be
about to plunge into some seeming state of former existence, as I had
done once before under the influence of this herb. My late friend,
Lady Ragnall, believed that state to be not seeming but real; while I,
on the other hand, could not accept this as a fact. I set it down, as
I am still inclined to do, to the workings of imagination,
superexcited by a strange and powerful drug and drawing, perhaps, from
some fount of knowledge of past events that is hidden deep in the
being of every one of us.

However these things may be, this rhetorical summing up of the case,
of which I can only recollect the last part, was but a kind of
introductory speech such as is sometimes made by a master of
ceremonies before the curtain rises upon the play. Its echoes died
away into a deep silence. All the living part of me went down into
darkness, dense darkness that seemed to endure for ages. Then, with
strugglings and effort, I awoke again--reborn. A hand was holding my
own, leading me forward; a voice I knew whispered in my ear, saying:

"Look upon one record of the past, O Doubter. Look and believe." Now
there happened to me, or seemed to happen, that which I had
experienced before in the museum at Ragnall Castle; namely, that I,
Allan, the living man of to-day, beheld myself another man, and yet
the same; and whilst remaining myself, could enter into and live the
life of that other man, knowing his thoughts, appreciating his motives
and his efforts, his hopes and his fears, his loves and his hates, and
yet standing outside of them, reading him like a book and weighing
everything in the scales of my modern judgment.

The voice--surely it was that of Lady Ragnall, though I could not see
her face--died away; the hand was loosed. I saw a man in the cold,
glimmering light of dawn. He was a very sturdy man, thick-limbed,
deep-chested, and somewhat hairy, whose age I judged to be about
thirty years. I knew at once that he was not a modern man, although
his weather-tanned skin was white where the furs he wore had slipped
away from his shoulder, for there was something unusual about his
aspect. Few modern men are so massive of body, and never have I seen
one with a neck so short and large in circumference, although the feet
and hands were not large. His frame was extraordinarily solid; being
not more than five feet seven inches in height and by no means fat,
yet he must have weighed quite fifteen stone, if not more. His dark
hair was long and parted in the middle; it hung down to his shoulders.

He turned his head, looking behind him as though to make sure that he
was alone, or that no wild beast stalked him, and I saw his face. The
forehead was wide and not high, for the hair grew low upon it; his
eyebrows were beetling and the eyes beneath them deep set. They were
remarkable eyes, large and gray, quick-glancing also, yet when at rest
somewhat sombre and very thoughtful. The nose was straight with wide
and sensitive nostrils, suggesting that its owner used them as a dog
or a deer does, to scent with. The mouth was thick-lipped but not
large, and within it were splendid and regular white teeth, broader
than those we have; the chin was very massive, and on it grew two
little tufts of beard, though the cheeks were bare.

For the rest, this man was long armed, for the tip of his middle
finger came down almost to the kneecap. He had a sort of kilt about
his middle and a heavy fur robe upon his shoulder which looked as
though it were made of bearskin. In his left hand he held a short
spear, the blade of which seemed to be fashioned of chipped flint, or
some other hard and shining stone, and in the girdle of his kilt was
thrust a wooden-handled instrument or ax, made by setting a great,
sharp-edged stone that must have weighed two pounds or so into the
cleft end of the handle which was lashed with sinews both above and
below the axhead.

I, Allan, the man of to-day, looked upon this mighty savage, for
mighty I could see he was--both in his body and, after a fashion, in
his mind also--and in my trance knew that the spirit which had dwelt
in him hundreds of thousands of years ago, mayhap, or at least in the
far, far, past, was the same that animated me, the living creature
whose body for aught I knew descended from his, thus linking us in
flesh as well as soul. Indeed, the thought came to me--I know not
whence--that here stood my remote forefather whose forgotten existence
was my cause of life, without whom my body could not have been.

Now, I, Allan Quatermain, fade from the story. No longer am I he. I am
Wi the Hunter, the future chief of a little tribe which had no name,
since, believing itself to be the only people on the earth, it needed
none. Yet remember that my modern intelligence and individuality never
went to sleep, that always it was able to watch this prototype, this
primeval one, to enter into his thoughts, to appreciate his motives,
hopes, and fears, and to compare them with those that actuate us
to-day. Therefore, the tale I tell is the substance of that which the
heart of Wi told to my heart, set out in my own modern tongue and
interpreted by my modern intellect.




CHAPTER III



WI SEEKS A SIGN


Wi, being already endowed with a spiritual sense, was praying to such
gods as he knew, the Ice-gods that his tribe had always worshipped. He
did not know for how long it had worshipped them, any more than he
knew the beginnings of that tribe, save for a legend that once its
forefathers had come here from behind the mountains, driven sunward
and southward by the cold. These gods of theirs lived in the blue-
black ice of the mightiest of the glaciers which moved down from the
crests of the high snow mountains. The breast of this glacier was in
the central valley, but most of the ice moved down smaller valleys to
the east and west and so came to the sea, where in springtime the
children of the Ice-gods that had been begotten in the heart of the
snowy hills were born, coming forth in great bergs from the dark wombs
of the valleys and sailing away southward. Thus it was that the vast
central glacier, the house of the gods, moved but little.

Urk the Aged-One, who had seen the birth of all who lived in the
tribe, said that his grandfather had told him, when he was little,
that in his youth the face of this glacier was perhaps a spear's cast
higher up the valley than it stood to-day, no more. It was a mighty
threatening face of the height of a score of tall forest pines set one
upon the other, sloping backward to its crest. For the most part, it
was of clear black ice which sometimes when the gods within were
talking, cracked and groaned, and when they were angry, heaved itself
forward by an arm's length, shaving off the rocks of the valley which
stood in its path and driving them in front of it. Who or what these
gods might be, Wi did not know. All he knew was that they were
terrible powers to be feared, in whom he believed as his forefathers
had done, and that in their hands lay the fate of the tribe.

In the autumn nights, when the mists rose, some had seen them: vast,
shadowy figures moving about before the face of the glacier, and even
at times advancing toward the beach beneath, where the people dwelt.
They had heard them laughing also, and their priest, N'gae the
Magician, and Taren the Witch-Who-Hid-Herself, who only came out at
night and who was the lover of N'gae, said that they had spoken to
them, making revelations. But to Wi they had never spoken, although he
had sat face to face with them at night, which none others dared to
do. So silent were they that, at times, when he was well fed and happy
hearted and his hunting had prospered, he began to doubt this tale of
the gods and to set down the noises that were called their voices to
breakings in the ice caused by frosts and thaws.

Yet there was something which he could not doubt. Deep in the face of
the ice, the length of three paces away, only to be seen in certain
lights, was one of the gods who for generations had been known to the
tribe as the Sleeper because he never moved. Wi could not make out
much about him, save that he seemed to have a long nose as thick as a
tree at its root and growing smaller toward the end. On each side of
this nose projected a huge curling tusk that came out of a vast head,
black in colour and covered with red hair, behind which swelled an
enormous body, large as that of a whale, whereof the end could not be
seen.

Here indeed was a god--not even Wi could doubt it--for none had ever
heard of or seen its like--though for what reason it chose to sleep
forever in the bosom of the ice he could not guess. Had such a monster
been known alive, he would have thought this one dead, not sleeping.
But it was not known and therefore it must be a god. So it came about
that, for his divinity, like the rest of the tribe, Wi took a gigantic
elephant of the early world caught in the ice of a glacial period that
had happened some hundreds of thousands of years before his day, and
slowly borne forward in the frozen stream from the far-off spot where
it had perished, doubtless to find its ultimate sepulchre in the sea.
A strange god enough, but not stranger than many have chosen and still
bow before to-day.

Wi, after debate with his wife Aaka, the proud and fair, had climbed
to the glacier while it was still dark to take counsel of the gods and
learn their will as to a certain matter. It was this: The greatest man
of the tribe, who by his strength ruled it, was Henga, a terrible man
born ten springs before Wi, huge in bulk and ferocious. This was the
law of the tribe, that the mightiest was its master, and so remained
until one mightier than he came to the opening of the cave in which he
lived, challenged him to single combat, and killed him. Thus Henga had
killed his own father who ruled before him.

Now he oppressed the tribe; doing no work himself, he seized the food
of others or the skin garments that they made. Moreover, although
there were few and all men fought for them, he took the women from
their parents or husbands, kept them for a while, then cast them out,
or perhaps killed them, and took others. Nor might they resist him,
because he was sacred and could do what he pleased. Only, as has been
said, any man might challenge him to single combat, for to slay him
otherwise was forbidden and would have caused the slayer to be driven
out to starve as one accursed. Then, if the challenger prevailed, he
took the cave of this sacred one, with the women and all that was his,
and became chief in his place, until in his turn he was slain in like
fashion. Thus it came about that no chief of the tribe lived to be
old, for as soon as years began to rob him of his might, he was killed
by someone younger and stronger who hated him. For this reason also
none desired to be chief, knowing that, if he were, sooner or later he
would die in blood, and it was better to suffer oppression than to
die.

Yet Wi desired it because of the cruelties of Henga and his misrule of
the tribe which he was bringing to misery. Also he knew that, if he
did not kill Henga, Henga would kill him from jealousy. Long ago he,
Wi, would have been murdered had he not been beloved by the tribe as
their great hunter who won them much of their meat food, and therefore
a man whose death would cause the slayer to be hated. Yet, fearing to
attack him openly, already Henga had tried to do away with him
secretly; and a little while before, when Wi was visiting his pit
traps on the edge of the forest, a spear whizzed past him, thrown from
a ledge of overhanging rock which he could not climb. He picked up the
spear and ran away. It was one which he knew belonged to Henga;
moreover, its flint point had been soaked in poison made from a kind
of cuttlefish that had rotted, mixed with the juice of a certain herb,
as Wi could tell, for sometimes he used this poison to kill game. He
kept the spear and, save to his wife Aaka, said nothing of the matter.

Then followed a worse thing. Besides his son Foh, a lad of ten years
whom he loved better than any thing on earth, he had a little daughter
one year younger, named Fo-a. This was all his family, for children
were scarce among the tribe, and most of those who were born died
quite young of cold, lack of proper food, and various sicknesses.
Moreover, if girls, many of them were cast out at birth to starve or
be devoured by wild beasts.

One evening, Fo-a was missing, and it was thought that wood wolves had
taken her, or perhaps the bears that lived in the forest. Aaka wept,
and Wi, when there was no one to see, wept also as he searched for
Fo-a, whom he loved. Two mornings afterward, when he came out of his
hut, near to the door place he found something wrapped in a skin, and,
on unwinding it, saw that it was the body of little Fo-a with her neck
broken and the marks of a great hand upon her throat. He knew well
that Henga had done this thing, as did everybody else, since among the
tribe none murdered except the chief, though sometimes men killed each
other fighting for women, of whom there were so few, or when they were
angry. Yet, when he showed the body to the people, they only shook
their heads and were silent, for had not Henga the right to take the
life of any among them?

Then it was that Wi's blood boiled within him and he talked with Aaka,
saying that it was in his heart to challenge Henga to fight.

"That is what he wishes you to do," answered Aaka, "for being a fool,
he thinks himself the stronger and that thus he will kill you without
reproach, who otherwise, when he is older, will kill him. Also I have
wished it for long who am sure that you can conquer Henga, but you
will not listen to me in this matter."

Then she rolled herself up in her skin rug and pretended to go to
sleep, saying no more.

In the morning she spoke again and said:

"Hearken, Wi. Counsel has come to me in my sleep. It seemed to me that
Fo-a our daughter who is dead stood before me, saying:

"'Let Wi my father go up at night to make prayer to the Ice-gods and
seek a sign from them. If a stone fall from the crest of the glacier
at the dawn, it shall be a token to him that he must fight Henga and
avenge my blood upon him and take his chieftainship; but if no stone
falls, then, should he fight, Henga will kill him. Also, afterward, he
will kill Foh my brother, and take you, my mother, to be one of his
wives.'

"Now, Wi, I say that you will do well to obey the voice of our child
who is dead and to go up to make prayer to the Ice-gods and await
their omen."

Wi looked at her doubtfully, putting little faith in this tale, and
answered:

"Such a dream is a thin stick on which to lean. I know well, Wife,
that for a long while you have desired that I should fight Henga,
although he is a terrible man. Yet, if I do, he may kill me and then
what would happen to you and Foh?"

"That which is fated to happen to us and nothing else, Husband. Shall
it be said in the tribe that Wi was afraid to avenge the blood of his
daughter upon Henga?"

"I know not, Wife, but I know also that, if such words are whispered,
they will not be true. It is of you and Foh that I think, not of
myself."

"Then go and seek an omen from the Ice-gods, Husband."

"I will go, Aaka, but do not blame me afterward if things happen
awry."

"They will not happen awry," answered Aaka, smiling for the first time
since Fo-a died.

For she was sure that Wi would conquer Henga, if only he could be
brought to fight him, and thus avenge Fo-a and become chief in his
place. Also she smiled because, for reasons of which she did not
speak, she was sure also that a stone would fall from the crest of the
glacier at dawn when the sun struck upon the ice.



Thus it came about that, on the following night, Wi the Hunter slipped
from the village of the tribe and, walking round the foot of the hill
that ran down to the beach on the east, scaled the cleft between the
mountains until he came to the base of the great glacier. The wolves
that were prowling round the place, still winter-hungry because the
spring was so late, scented him and surrounded him with glaring eyes.
But he, the Hunter, was not afraid of the wolves; moreover, woe had
made his heart fierce. So with a yell he charged at the biggest of
them, the leader of the pack, and drove his flint spear into its
throat, then, while it writhed upon the spear, gnashing its red jaws,
he dashed out its brains with his stone ax, muttering:

"Thus shall Henga die! Thus shall Henga die!"

The wolves knew their master and sped away, all save their leader that
lay dead. Wi dragged its carcase to the top of a rock and left it
there where the rest could not reach it, purposing to skin it in the
morning.

This done, he went on up the cold valley where no beasts came, because
here there was nothing to eat, till he reached the face of the
glacier, a mighty wall of backward sloping ice that gleamed faintly in
the moonlight and filled the cleft from side to side, four hundred
paces or more in width. When last he was here, twelve moons gone, he
had driven a stake of driftwood between two rocks and another stake
five paces lower down, because of late it had seemed to him that the
glacier was marching forward.

So it was indeed, for the first stake was buried, and the cruel,
crawling lip of the glacier had nearly reached the second. The gods
were awake! The gods were matching toward the sea!

Wi shivered, not because of the cold, to which he was accustomed, but
from fear--for this place was terrible to him. It was the house of the
gods who dwelt there in the ice, the gods in whom he believed, and who
were always angry, and now he remembered that he had brought no
offering to propitiate them. He went back to the place where he had
killed the wolf, and with difficulty, by aid of his sharp flint spear
and stone ax, hacked off its head. Returning with this head, he set
the grisly thing upon a rock at the foot of the glacier, muttering:

"It bleeds and the gods love blood. Now I swear that, if I kill Henga,
I will give them his carcass, which is better than the head of a
wolf."

Then he knelt down, as men have ever done before that which they fear
and worship, and began to pray after his rude fashion:

"O Mighty Ones," he said, "who have lived here since the beginning,
and O Sleeper with a shape such as no man has ever seen, Wi throws out
his spirit to you; hear ye the prayer of Wi and give him a sign. Henga
the fierce and hideous, who kills his own children lest in a day to
come they should slay him as he slew his father, rules the people and
does evilly. The people groan, but according to the old law may not
rebel, and to speak they are afraid. Henga would kill me, and my
little daughter Fo-a he has killed, and her mother weeps. I, Wi, would
fight Henga as I may do under the law, but he is strong as the wild
bull of the forest, and if he prevails, not only will he kill me, he
will also take Aaka, whom he covets, and will murder our son Foh and
perhaps devour him. Therefore, I am afraid to fight, for their sakes.
Yet I would be revenged upon Henga and slay him, and live in the cave
and rule the People better, not devouring their food, but storing it
up for them; not taking the women, but leaving them to be the wives of
those who have none. I have brought you an offering, O Gods, the head
of a wolf fresh slain, which bleeds, the best thing I have to give
you, and if I kill Henga, I will bring you a richer one, that of his
dead body, because our fathers have always said that you love blood."

Wi paused, for he could think of nothing more to say; then,
remembering that as yet he had made no request, went on:

"Show me what I must do, O Gods. Shall I challenge Henga in the old
way and fight him openly for the rule of the tribe? or, since if I
fear to do this I cannot stay here among the people, shall I fly away
with Aaka and Foh and, perhaps, Pag, the wise dwarf, the Wolf-man who
loves me, to seek another home beyond the woods, if we live to win
through them? Accept my offering and tell me, O Gods. If I must fight
Henga, let a stone fall from the crest of the glacier, and if I must
fly to save the lives of Aaka and Foh, let no stone fall. Here, now, I
will wait till an hour after sunrise. Then, if a stone falls, I shall
go down to challenge Henga, and if it does not fall, I shall give it
out that I am about to challenge him, and in the night I shall slip
away with Aaka and Foh, and Pag if he chooses; whereby you will lose
worshippers, O Gods."

Pleased with this master argument, which had come as an inspiration,
since he had never thought of it before, and sure that it would appeal
to gods whose followers were few and who therefore could not afford to
lose any of them, Wi ceased praying, a terrible exercise which tired
him more than a whole day's hunting or fishing, and, remaining on his
knees, stared at the face of ice in front of him. He knew nothing of
the laws of nature, but he did know that heavy bodies, if once set in
motion, moved very fast down a hill, going quicker and quicker as they
came near to its foot. Indeed, once he had killed a bear by rolling a
stone down on it, which overtook the running beast with wonderful
swiftness.

This being so, he began to marvel what would happen if all that mighty
mass of ice should move in good earnest instead of at the rate of only
a few handbreadths a year. Well, he knew something of that also. For
once, when he was in the woods, he had seen an ice child born, a vast
mass large as a mountain which suddenly rushed down one of the western
valleys into the sea, sending foam flying as high as heaven. That had
hurt no one, except, perhaps, some of the seal people which were
basking in the bay, because there was no one to hurt. But if it had
been the great central glacier that thus moved and gave birth,
together with the other smaller glaciers of the west, what would
chance to the tribe upon the beach beneath? They would be killed,
every one, and there would be no people left in the world.

He did not call it the world, of course, since he knew nothing of the
world, but rather by some word that meant "the place," that is, the
few miles of beach and wood and mountain over which he wandered. From
a great height he had seen other beaches and woods, also mountains
beyond a rocky, barren plain, but to him these were but a dreamland.
At least, no men and women lived in them, because they had never heard
their voices or seen the smoke of their fires, such as the tribe made
to warm themselves by and for the cooking of their food. It was true
that there were stories that such people existed and Pag, the cunning
dwarf, thought so. However, Wi, being a man who dealt with facts, paid
no heed to these tales. There below him lived the only people in the
world, and if they were crushed, all would be finished.

Well, if so, it would not matter very much, except in the case of
Aaka, and, above all, of Foh his son, for of other women he thought
little, while the creatures that furnished food, the seals and the
birds and the fish, especially the salmon that came up the stream in
spring, and the speckled trout, would be happier if they were gone.

These speculations also tired him, a man of action who was only
beginning to learn how to think. So he gave them up, as he had given
up praying, and stared with his big, thoughtful eyes at the ice in
front of him. The light was gathering now, very soon the sun should
rise and he should see into the ice. Look! There were faces, grotesque
faces, some of them vast, some tiny, that seemed to shift and change
with the changes of the light and the play of the shadows. Doubtless,
these were those of the lesser gods of whom probably there were a
great number, all of them bad and cruel, and they were peering and
mocking at him.

Moreover, beyond them, a dim outline, was the great Sleeper, as he had
always been, a mountain of a god with huge tusks and the curling nose
much longer than the body of a man, and a head like a rock, and ears
as big as the sides of a hut, and a small, cold eye that seemed to be
fixed upon him, and behind all this, vanishing into the depths of the
ice, an enormous body the height of three men standing on each other's
heads, perhaps. There was a god indeed, and, looking at him, Wi
wondered whether one day he would awake and break out of the ice and
come rushing down the mountain. That he might see him better, Wi rose
from his knees and crept timidly to the face of the glacier to peer
down a certain crevice in the ice. While he was thus engaged, the sun
rose in a clear sky over the shoulder of the mountain and shone with
some warmth upon the glacier for the first time that spring--or rather
early summer. Its rays penetrated the cleft in the ice so that Wi saw
more of the Sleeper than he had ever done.

Truly, he was enormous, and look, behind him was something like the
figure of a man of which he had often heard but never before seen so
clearly. Or was it a shadow? Wi could not be sure, for just then a
cloud floated over the face of the sun and the figure vanished. He
waited for the cloud to pass away, and well was it for him that he did
so, for just then a great rock which lay, doubtless, upon the extreme
lip of the glacier, loosened from its last hold by the warmth of the
sun, came thundering down the slope of the ice and, leaping over Wi,
fell upon the spot where he had just been standing, making a hole in
the frozen ground and crushing the wolf's head to a pulp, after which,
with mighty bounds, it vanished towards the beach.

"The Sleeper has protected me," said Wi to himself, as he turned to
look after the vanishing rock. "Had I stayed where I was, I should
have been as that wolf's head."

Then, suddenly, he remembered that this stone had fallen in answer to
his prayer; that it was the sign he had sought, and removed himself
swiftly, lest another that he had not sought should follow after it.

When he had run a few paces down the frozen slope, he came to a little
bay hollowed in the mountainside, and sat down, knowing that there he
was safe from falling stones. Confusedly, he began to think. What had
he asked the gods? Was it that he must fight Henga if the stone fell,
or that he must not fight him? Oh! now he remembered. It was that he
must fight as Aaka wished him to do, and a cold trembling shook his
limbs. To talk of fighting that raging giant was easy enough, but to
do it was another matter. Yet the gods had spoken, and he dared not
disobey the counsel that he had sought. Moreover, by sparing his life
from the falling stone, surely they meant that he would conquer Henga.
Or perhaps they only meant that they wished to see Henga tear him to
pieces for their sport, for the gods loved blood, and the gods were
cruel. Moreover, being evil themselves, would it not, perhaps, please
them to give victory to the evil man?

As he could not answer these questions, Wi rose and walked slowly
toward the beach, reflecting that probably he had seen his last of the
glacier and the Ice-gods who dwelt therein, he who was about to
challenge Henga to fight to the death. Presently he drew near to the
place where he had killed the wolf, and, looking up, was astonished to
see that someone was skinning the beast. Indeed, his fingers tightened
upon the haft of his spear, for this was a crime against the hunter's
law--that one should steal what another had slain. Then the head of
the skinner appeared, and Wi smiled and loosened his grip of the
spear. For this was no thief, this was Pag, his slave who loved him.

A strange-looking man was Pag, a large-headed, one-eyed dwarf, great-
chested, long-armed, powerful, but with thick little legs, no longer
than those of a child of eight years; a monstrous, flat-nosed, big-
mouthed creature, who yet always wore upon his scarred countenance a
smiling, humorous air. It was told of Pag that, when he was born, a
long while before--for his youth had passed--he was so ugly that his
mother had thrown him out into the woods, fearing that his father, who
was absent killing seals farther up the beach, would be angry with her
for bearing such a son and purposing to tell him that the child had
been stillborn.

As it chanced, when the father came back, he went to search for the
infant's bones, but in place of them found the babe still living, but
with one eye dashed out against a stone and its face much scarred.
Still, this being his first-born, and because he was a man with a
merciful heart, he brought it home into the hut, and forced the mother
to nurse it. This she did, like one who is frightened, though why she
was frightened she would not say, nor would his father ever tell where
and how he had found Pag. Thus it came about that Pag did not die, but
lived, and because of what his mother had done to him, always was a
hater of women; one, too, who lived much in the forest, for which
reason, or some other, he was named "wolf-man." Moreover, he grew up
the cleverest of the tribe, for nature, which had made him ugly and
deformed, gave him more wits than the rest of them, and a sharp tongue
that he used to gibe with at the women.

Therefore they hated him also and made a plot against him, and when
there came a time of scarcity, persuaded the chief of the tribe of
that day, the father of Henga, that Pag was the cause of ill-fortune.
So that chief drove out Pag to starve. But when Pag was dying for lack
of food, Wi found him and brought him to his hut, where, although like
the rest of her sex Aaka loved him little, he remained as a slave; for
this was the law, that, if any saved a life, that life belonged to
him. In truth, however, Pag was more than a slave, because, from the
hour that Wi, braving the wrath of the women, who thought that they
were rid of Pag and his gibes, and perchance the anger of the chief,
had rescued him when he was starving in a season of bitter frost, Pag
loved him more than a woman loves her first-born, or a young man his
one-day bride.

Thenceforward he was Wi's shadow, ready to suffer all things for him,
and even to refrain from sharp words and jests about Aaka or any other
woman upon whom Wi looked with favour, though to do so he must bite a
hole in his tongue. So Pag loved Wi and Wi loved Pag, for which reason
Aaka, who was jealous-hearted, came to hate him more than she had done
at first.

There was trouble about this business of the saving of the life of Pag
by Wi after he had been driven out to starve as an evil-eyed and
scurrilous fellow, but the chief, Henga's father, a kindly natured
man, when the matter came before him, said that, since twice Pag had
been thrown out and brought back again, it was evident that the gods
meant him to die in some other fashion. Only now that Wi had taken
him, Wi must feed him and see that he hurt none. If he chose to keep a
one-eyed wolf, it was his own business and that of no one else.

Shortly after this, Henga killed his father and became chief in place,
and the matter of Pag was forgotten. So Pag stayed on with Wi and was
beloved of him and by Wi's children, but hated of Aaka.




CHAPTER IV



THE TRIBE


"A good pelt," said Pag, pointing to the wolf with his red knife,
"for, the spring being so late, this beast had not begun to shoot its
hair. When I have brayed it as I know how, it will make a cloak for
Foh. He needs one that is warm, even in the summer, for lately he has
been coughing and spitting."

"Yes," answered Wi anxiously. "It has come upon him ever since he hid
in the cold water because the black bear with the great teeth was
after him, knowing that the beast hates water, for which," he added
viciously, "I swear that I will kill that bear. Also he grieves for
his sister, Fo-a."

"Aye, Wi," snarled Pag, his one eye flashing with hate. "Foh grieves,
Aaka grieves, you grieve, and I, Pag the Wolf-man, grieve, too. Oh,
why did you make me come hunting with you that day when my heart was
against it and, smelling evil, I wished to stop with Fo-a, whom Aaka
let run off by herself just because I told her that she should keep
the girl at home?"

"It was the will of the gods, Pag," muttered Wi, turning his head
away.

"The gods! What gods? I say it was the will of a brute with two legs--
nay, of the great-toothed tiger himself of which our forefather told,
living in a man's skin, yes, of Henga, helped by Aaka's temper. Kill
that man tiger, Wi, and never mind the great black bear. Or, if you
cannot, let me. I know a woman who hates him because he has put her
away and made her serve another who has her place, and I can make good
poison, very good poison----"

"Nay, it is not lawful," said Wi, "and would bring a curse upon us.
But it is lawful that I should kill him, and I will. I have been
talking to the gods about it."

"Oh! that is where the wolf's head has gone--an offering, I see. And
what did the gods say to you, Wi?"

"They gave me a sign. A stone fell from the brow of the ice, as Aaka
said that it would if I was to fight Henga. It nearly hit me, but I
had moved closer to the ice to look at the Sleeper, the greatest of
the gods."

"I don't believe it is a god, Wi. I believe it is a beast of a sort we
do not know, dead and frozen, and that the shadow behind it is a man
that was hunting the beast when they both fell into the snow that
turned to ice."

Wi stared at him, for this indeed was a new idea.

"How can that be, Pag, seeing that the Sleeper and the Shadow have
always been there, for our grandfathers knew them, and there is no
such beast known? Also, except us, there are no other men."

"Are you sure, Wi? The place is big. If you go to the top of that
hill, you see other hills behind as far as the eye can look, and
between them plains and woods; also, there is the sea, and there may
be beaches beyond the sea. Why, then, should there not be other men?
Did the gods make us alone? Would they not make more to play with and
to kill?"

Wi shook his head at these revolutionary arguments, and Pag went on:

"As for the falling of the stone, it often happens when the heat of
the sun melts the edge of the ice or makes it swell. And as for the
groans and callings of the gods, does not ice crack when the frost is
sharp, or when there is no frost at all and it begins to move of its
own weight?"

"Cease, Pag, cease," said Wi, stuffing his fingers into his ears. "No
longer will I listen to such mad words. If the gods hear them, they
will kill us."

"If the people hear them, they may kill us because they walk in fear
of what they cannot see and would save themselves at the cost of
others. But for the gods--that!" and Pag snapped his fingers in the
direction of the glacier, which, after all, is a very ancient gesture
of contempt.

Wi was so overcome that he sat down upon a stone, unable to answer,
and, that first of sceptics, Pag, went on:

"If I must have a god, who have found men quite bad enough to deal
with, without one above them more evil than they, I would choose the
sun. The sun gives life; when the sun shines, everything grows, and
the creatures mate and the birds lay eggs and the seals come to bear
their young and the flowers bloom. When there is no sun only frost and
snow, then all these die or go away, and it is hard to live, and the
wolves and bears raven and eat men, if they can catch them. Yes, the
sun shall be my good god and the black frost my evil god."

Thus did Pag propound a new religion, which since then has been very
popular in the world. Next, changing the subject rapidly, as do
children and savages, he asked:

"What of Henga, Wi? Are you going to challenge him to fight?"

"Yes," said Wi fiercely, "this very day."

"May you be victorious! May you kill him, thus and thus and thus," and
Pag jabbed his flint knife into the stomach of the dead wolf. "Yet,"
he added reflectively, "it is a big business. There has been no such
man as Henga among our people that I have heard of. Although N'gae,
who calls himself a magician, is without doubt a cheat and a liar, I
think he is right when he says that Henga's mother made a mistake. She
meant to have twins but they got mixed up together and Henga came
instead. Otherwise, why is he double-jointed, why has he two rows of
teeth, one behind the other, and why is he twice the size of any other
man and more than twice as wicked? Still, without doubt he is a man
and not what you call a god, since he grows fat and heavy and his hair
is beginning to turn gray. Therefore, he can be killed if anyone is
strong enough to break in that thick skull of his. I should like to
try poison on him, but you say that I must not. Well, I will think the
matter over, and we will talk again before you fight. Meanwhile, as
there may be no chance afterward when chattering women are about, give
me your commands, Wi, as to what is to be done if Henga kills you. I
suppose that you do not wish him to take Aaka as he desires to do, or
Foh that he may make a nothing of him and keep him as a slave."

"I do not," said Wi.

"Then please direct me to kill them, or to see that they kill
themselves, never mind how."

"I do so direct you, Pag."

"Good, and what are your wishes as regards myself?"

"I don't know," answered Wi wearily. "Do what you will. I thank you
and wish you well."

"You are not kind to me, Wi. Although I am called the Twice-thrown-
out, and the Wolf-man, and the Hideous, and the Barbed-tongued, still
I have served you well. Now, when I ask you what I must do after you
are dead and I have killed your family, you do not say: 'Why, follow
me, of course, and look for me in the darkness, and if you find
nothing it will be because there is nothing to find,' as you would
have done did you love me. No, you say, 'Do as you will. What is it to
me?' Still, I shall come with Foh and Aaka, although, of course, I
must be a little behind them, because it will take time to fulfil your
orders, and afterward to do what is necessary to myself. Still, wait
for me an hour, even if Aaka is angry, as she will be."

"So you think you would find me somewhere, you who do not believe in
the gods," said Wi, staring at him with his big, melancholy eyes.

"Yes, Wi, I think that, though I don't know why I think it. I think
that the lover always finds the beloved, and that therefore you will
find Fo-a and I shall find you. Also, I think that, if I am wrong, it
doesn't matter, for I shall never know that I was wrong. But as for
those gods who dwell in the ice, /piff!/" and again Pag snapped his
fingers in the direction of the glacier and went on with the skinning
of the wolf.

Presently this was finished and he threw the gory hide, flesh side
down, over his broad shoulders to keep it stretched, as he said, for a
little blood did not trouble him. Then, without more talk, the pair
walked down to the beach, the squat misshapen Pag waddling on his
short legs after the burly, swift-moving Wi.

Here, straggling over a great extent of shore, were a number of rough
shelters not unlike the Indian wigwams of our own age, or those rude
huts that are built by the Australian savages. Round these huts
wandered or squatted some sharp-nosed, surly-looking, long-coated
creatures, very powerful of build, that a modern man would have taken
for wolves rather than dogs. Wolves their progenitors had been, though
how long before it was impossible to say. Now, however, they were
tamed, more or less, and the most valued possession of the tribe,
which by their aid kept at bay the true wild wolves and the other
savage beasts that haunted the beach and the woods.

When these animals caught sight of Wi and Pag, they rushed at them,
open-mouthed and growling fiercely till, getting their wind, of a
sudden they became gentle and, for the most part, returned to the huts
whence they had come. Two or three of them, however, which were his
especial property and lived in his hut, leapt up at Wi, wagging their
tails and striving to lick his hand or face. He patted one upon the
head, the great hound Yow whom he loved, and who was his guard and
companion when out hunting, whereon the other two, in their fierce
jealousy, instantly flew at its throat, nor did Pag find it easy to
separate them.

The noise of the worrying attracted the tribe, many of whom appeared
from out of the huts or elsewhere to discover its cause. They were
wild-looking people, all dark-haired like Wi, though he was taller and
bigger than most of them, very like each other in countenance,
moreover, as a result of inbreeding for an unknown number of
generations. Indeed, a stranger would have found difficulty in
distinguishing them apart except by their ages, but as no stranger
ever came to the home of the beach people, this did not matter.

The most of them also were coarse-faced and crushed-looking as though
they were well-acquainted with the extremities of cruelty and hardship
--which was indeed the case; like Wi, however, some of them had fine
eyes, though even these were furtive and terror-stricken. Of children
there were not many, for reasons that have been told, and these hung
together in a little group, perhaps to keep out of the way of blows
when their elders appeared, or in some instances wandered round the
fires of driftwood on which food was cooking, bits of seal meat, for
the most part, toasting upon sticks--for the tribe were not advanced
enough in the domestic arts to possess cooking vessels--as though,
like the dogs, they hoped to snatch a mouthful when no one saw them.
Only a few of the smaller of these children sat about upon the sand
playing with sticks or shells, which they used as toys. Many of the
women seemed even more depressed than the men, which was not strange,
as, like slaves, it was their lot to do the hard work and to wait hand
and foot on their masters, those who had taken them as wives, either
by capture or in exchange for other women, or for such goods as this
people possessed and valued--bone fish hooks, flint weapons, fibre
rope, and dressed skins.

Through this collection of primitive humanity--our forebears be it
remembered--Wi, preceded by Pag, marched toward his own hut, a large
one more neatly constructed than most, of fir poles from the wood tied
together at the top, tent-shaped and covered with untanned skins laid
over a roof of dried ferns and seaweed, arranged so as to keep out the
cold. Obviously, he was a person held in respect, as the men made way
for him, though some of the short little women stood staring at him
with sympathy in their eyes, for they remembered that a few days ago
Henga had stolen and killed his daughter. One of these mentioned this
to another, but this one, who was elderly and cynical, replied as soon
as he was out of hearing:

"What does it matter? It will be a mouth less to feed next winter, and
who can wish to bring up daughters to be what we are?"

Some of the younger females--there did not seem to be any girls, they
were all either children or women--clustered about Pag and, unable to
retain their curiosity, questioned him as to the wolfskin on his
shoulders. Living up to his reputation, he replied by telling them to
mind their own business and get to their work, instead of standing
idle; whereon they jeered at him, giving him ugly names, and calling
attention to his deformity, or making faces, until he set one of the
dogs at them, whereon they ran away.

They came to Wi's hut. As they approached, the hide curtain which hung
over the front opening was thrust aside and out rushed a lad of some
ten years of age, a handsome boy though rather thin, with a bright,
vivacious face, very different in appearance to others of the tribe of
the same age. Foh, for it was he, flung himself into his father's
arms, saying:

"My mother made me eat in the hut because the wind is so cold and I
still cough, but I heard your step, also that of Pag, who lumbers
along like a seal on its flippers. Where have you been, Father? When I
woke up this morning I could not find you."

"Near to the God's House, Son," answered Wi, nodding toward the
glacier, as he kissed him back.

At this moment, Foh's quick glance fell upon the wolfskin which hung
from Pag's shoulders to the ground and still dripped blood.

"Where did you get that?" he cried. "What a beautiful skin! A wolf
indeed, a father of wolves. Did you kill it, Pag?"

"No, Foh, I flayed it. Learn to take note. Look at your father's
spear. Is it not red?"

"So is your knife, Pag, and so are you, down to the heels. How was I
to know which of you slew this great beast when both are so brave?
What are you going to do with the skin?"

"Bray it into a cloak for you, Foh; very cunningly with the claws left
on the pads, but polished so that they will shine in front when you
tie it about you."

"Good. Cure it quickly, Pag, for it will be warm and these winds are
cold. Come into the hut, Father, where your food is waiting, and tell
us how you killed the wolf," and seizing Wi by the hand, the boy
dragged him between the skin curtains while Pag and the dogs retreated
to some shelter behind, which the dwarf had constructed for himself.

The place within was quite spacious, sixteen feet long, perhaps, by
about twelve in breadth.

In the centre of it, on a hearth of clay, burned a wood fire, the
smoke of which escaped through a hole in the roof, though, the morning
being still, much hung about, making the air thick and pungent, but
this Wi, being accustomed to it, did not notice.

On the farther side of the fire, attending to the grilling of strips
of flesh set upon pointed sticks, stood Aaka, Wi's wife, clothed in a
kirtle of sealskins fastened beneath her breast, for here, the place
being warm, she wore no cloak. She was a finely built woman of about
thirty years of age, with masses of black hair that hung to her
middle, clean and well-kept hair arranged in four tresses, each of
which was tied at the end with fibres of grass or sinew. Her skin was
whiter than that of most of her race; indeed, quite white, except
where it was tanned by exposure to the weather; her face, though
rather broad, was handsome and fine-featured, if somewhat querulous,
and, like the rest of her people, she had large and melancholy dark
eyes.

As Wi entered, she threw a curious, searching glance at him, as though
to read his mind, then smiled in rather a forced fashion and drew
forward a block of wood. Indeed, there was nothing else for him to sit
on, for furniture, even in its simplest forms, was not known in the
tribe. Sometimes a thick, flat stone was used as a table, or a divided
stick for a fork, but beyond such expedients the tribe had not
advanced. Thus their beds consisted of piles of dried seaweed thrown
upon the floor of the hut and covered with skins of one sort or
another, and their lamps were made of large shells filled with seal
oil in which floated a wick of moss.

Wi sat down on the log, and Aaka, taking one of the sticks on which
was spitted a great lump of frizzling seal meat, not too well cooked
and somewhat blackened by the smoke, handed it to him and stood by
dutifully while he devoured it in a fashion which we should not have
considered elegant. Then it was that Foh, rather shyly, draw out from
some hiding place a little parcel wrapped in a leaf, which he opened
and set upon the ground. It contained desiccated and somewhat sandy
brine, or rather its deposit, that the lad with much care had scraped
off the rocks of a pool from which the sea water had evaporated. Once
Wi by accident had mingled some of this dried brine with his food and
found that thereby its taste was enormously improved. Thus he became
the discoverer of salt among the People, the rest of whom, however,
looked on it as a luxurious innovation which it was scarcely right to
use. But Wi, being more advanced, did use it, and it was Foh's
business to collect the stuff, as it had been that of his sister,
Fo-a. Indeed, it was while she was thus engaged, far away and alone,
that Henga the chief had kidnapped the poor child.

Remembering this, Wi thrust aside the leaf, then, noting the pained
expression of the boy's face at the refusal of his gift, drew it back
again and dipped the meat into its contents. When Wi had consumed all
he wanted of the flesh, he signed to Aaka and Foh to eat the rest,
which they did hungrily, having touched nothing since yesterday, for
it was not lawful that the family should eat until its head had taken
his fill. Lastly, by way of dessert, Wi chewed a lump of sun-dried
stockfish upon which no modern teeth could have made a mark for it was
as hard as stone, and by way of a savoury a handful or so of prawns
that Foh had caught among the rocks and Aaka had cooked in the ashes.

The feast finished, Wi bid Foh bear the remnants to Pag in his shelter
without, and stay with him till he was called. Then he drank a
quantity of spring water, which Aaka kept stored in big shells and in
a stone, her most valued possession, hollowed to the shape of a pot by
the action of ice, or the constant grinding of other stones at the
bottom of the sea. This he did because there was nothing else, though
at certain times of the year Aaka made a kind of tea by boiling an
herb she knew of in a shell, a potion that all of them loved for both
its warmth and its stimulating properties. This herb, however, grew
only in the autumn and it had never occurred to them to store it and
use it dry. Therefore, their use of the first intoxicant was limited
of necessity, which was perhaps as well.

Having drunk, he closed the skins that hung over the hut entrance,
pinning them together with a bone that passed through loops in the
hide, and sat down again upon his log.

"What said the gods?" asked Aaka quickly. "Did they answer your
prayer?"

"Woman, they did. At sunrise a rock fell from the crest of the ice
field and crushed my offering so that the ice took it to itself."

"What offering?"

"The head of a wolf that I slew as I went up the valley."

Aaka brooded awhile, then said:

"My heart tells me that the omen is good. Henga is that wolf, and as
you slew the wolf, so shall you slay Henga. Did I hear that its hide
is to be a cloak for Foh? If so, the omen is good also, since one day
the rule of Henga shall descend to Foh. At least, if you kill Henga,
Foh shall live and not die as Fo-a died."

An expression of joy spread over Wi's face as he listened.

"Your words give me strength," he said, "and now I go out to summon
the People and to tell them that I am about to challenge Henga to
fight to the death."

"Go," she said, "and hear me, my man. Fight you without fear, for if
my rede be wrong and Henga the Mighty should kill you, what of it?
Soon we die, all of us, for the most part slowly by hunger or
otherwise, but death at the hands of Henga will be swift. And if you
die, then we shall die soon, very soon. Pag will see to it, and so we
shall be together again."

"Together again! Together where, Wife?" he asked, staring at her
curiously.

A kind of veil seemed to fall over Aaka's face, that is, her
expression changed entirely, for it grew blank and wooden, secret
also, like to the faces of all her sisters of the tribe.

"I don't know," she answered roughly. "Together in the light or
together in the dark, or together with the Ice-gods--who can tell? At
least together somewhere. You shake your head. You have been talking
to that hater of the gods and changeling, Pag, who really is a wolf,
not a man, and hunts with the wolves at night, which is why he is
always so fat in winter when others starve."

Here Wi laughed incredulously, saying:

"If so, he is a wolf that loves us; I would that we had more such
wolves."

"Oh! you mock, as all men do. But we women see further, and we are
sure that Pag is a wolf by night, if a dwarf by day. For, if any try
to injure him, are they not taken by wolves? Did not wolves eat his
father, and were not the leaders of those women who caused him to be
driven forth to starve when there was such scarcity that even the
wolves fled far away, afterward taken by wolves, they or their
children?"

Then, as though she thought she had said too much, Aaka added:

"Yet all this may be but a tale spread from mouth to mouth, because we
women hate Pag who mocks us. At least he believes in naught, and would
teach you to do the same, and already you begin to walk in his
footsteps. Yet, if you hold that we live no more after our breath
leaves us, tell me one thing. Why, when you buried Fo-a yonder, did
you set with her in the hole her necklace of shells and the stone ball
that she played with and the tame bird she had, after you killed it,
and her winter cloak, and the doll you made for her of pinewood last
year? Of what good would these things be to her bones? Was it not
because you thought that they and the little stone ax might be of use
to her elsewhere, as the dried fish and the water might serve to feed
her?"

Here she ceased, and stared at him.

"Sorrow makes you mad," said Wi, very gently, for he was moved by her
words, "as it makes me mad, but in another fashion. For the rest, I do
not know why I did thus; perhaps it was because I wished to see those
things no more, perhaps because it is a custom to bury with the dead
what they loved when they were alive."

Then he turned and left the hut. Aaka watched him go, muttering to
herself:

"He is right. I am mad with grief for Fo-a and with fear for Foh; for
it is the children that we women love, yes, more than the man who
begat them; and if I thought that I should never find her again, then
I would die at once and have done. Meanwhile, I live on to see Wi dash
out the brains of Henga, or, if he is killed, to help Pag poison him.
They say that Pag is a wolf, but, though I hate him of whom Wi thinks
too much, what care I whether he be wolf or monster? At least he loves
Wi and our children and will help me to be revenged on Henga."

Presently she heard the wild-bull horn that served the tribe as a
trumpet being blown, and knew that Wini-wini, he who was called the
Shudderer because he shook like a jellyfish even if not frightened,
which was seldom, was summoning the people that they might talk
together or hear news. Guessing what that news would be, Aaka threw
her skin cloak about her and followed the sound of the horn to the
place of assembly.

Here, on a flat piece of ground at a distance from the huts that lay
about two hundred paces from a cliff-like spur of the mountain, all
the people, men, women, and children, except a few who were in
childbed or too sick or old to move, were gathering together. As they
walked or ran, they chattered excitedly, delighted that something was
happening to break the terrible sadness of their lives, now and again
pointing toward the mouth of the great cave that appeared in the stone
cliff opposite to the meeting place. In this cave dwelt Henga, for by
right, from time immemorial, it was the home of the chiefs of the
tribe, which none might enter save by permission, a sacred place like
to the palaces of modern times.

Aaka walked on, feeling that she was being watched by the others but
taking no heed, for she knew the reason. She was Wi's woman, and the
rumour had run round that Wi the Strong, Wi the Great Hunter, Wi whose
little daughter had been murdered, was about to do something strange,
though what it might be none was sure. All of them longed to ask Aaka,
but there was something in her eye which forbade them, for she was
cold and stately and they feared her a little. So she went on
unmolested, looking for Foh, of whom presently she caught sight
walking in the company of Pag, who still had the reeking wolfskin on
his shoulders, of which, as he was short, the tail dragged along the
ground. She noted that, as he advanced, the people made way for him,
not from reverence or love, but because they feared him and his evil
eye.

"Look," said one woman to another in hearing, "there goes he who hates
us, the spear-tongued dwarf."

"Aye," answered the other. "He is in such haste that he has forgotten
to take off the wolf's hide he hunted in last night. Have you heard
that Buk's wife has lost her little child of three? It is said that
the bears took it, but perhaps yonder wolf-man knows better."

"Yet Foh does not fear him. Look, he holds his hand and laughs."

"No, because----" Here suddenly the woman caught sight of Aaka and was
silent.

"I wonder," reflected Aaka, "whether we women hate Pag because he is
ugly and hates us, or because he is cleverer than we are and pierces
us with his tongue. I wonder also why they all think he is half a
wolf. I suppose it is because he hunts with Wi, for how can he be both
a man and a wolf? At least, I too believe that report speaks truth and
that he and the wolves have dealings together. Or perhaps he puts the
tale about that all may fear him."

She came to the meeting ground and took her stand near to Foh and Pag
among the crowd which stood or sat in a ring about an open space of
empty ground where sometimes the tribe danced when they had plenty of
food and the weather was warm, or took counsel, or watched the young
men fight and wrestle for the prize of a girl they coveted.

At the head of the ring, which was oblong in shape rather than round,
standing about Wini-wini the Shudderer, who from time to time still
blew blasts upon his horn, were some of the leaders of the tribe,
among them old Turi the Avaricious, the hoarder of food who was always
fat, whoever grew thin; and Pitokiti the Unlucky with whom everything
went wrong, whose fish always turned rotten, whose women deserted him,
whose children died, and whose net was sure to break, so that he must
be supported by others for fear lest he should die and pass on his
ill-luck to them who neglected him; and Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-Omen,
the lean-faced one who was always howling of misfortunes to come; and
Hou the Unstable, a feather blown by the wind, who was never of the
same mind two days together and Rahi the Rich, who traded in stone
axes and fish hooks and thus lived well without work; and Hotoa, the
great-bellied and slow-speeched, who never gave his word as to a
matter until he knew how it was settled, and then shouted it loudly
and looked wise; and Taren, She-Who-hid, with N'gae the priest of the
Ice-gods and the magician who told fortunes with shells, and only came
out when there was evil in the wind.

Lastly there was Moananga, Wi's younger brother, the brave, the great
fighter who had fought six men to win and keep Tana, the sweet and
loving, the fairest woman of the tribe, and killed two of them who
strove to steal her by force. He was a round-eyed man with a laughing
face, quick to anger but good-tempered, and after Wi the Hunter, he
who stood first among the people. Moreover, he loved Wi and clung to
him, so that the two were as one, for which reason Henga the chief
hated them both and thought that they were too strong for him.

All these were talking with their heads close together, till presently
appeared Wi, straight, strong, and stern, at whose coming they grew
silent. He looked round at them, then said:

"I have words."

"We are listening," replied Moananga.

"Hearken," went on Wi. "Is there not a law that any man of the tribe
may challenge the chief of the tribe to fight, and if he can kill him,
may take his place?"

"There is such a law," said Urk, the old wizard, he who made charms
for women and brewed love potions, and in winter told stories of what
had happened long ago before his grandfather's grandfather was born,
very strange stories, some of them. "Twice it has chanced in my day,
the second time when Henga challenged and killed his own father and
took the cave."

"Yes," added Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-Omen, "but if he who challenges is
defeated, not only is he killed, his family is killed also"--here he
glanced at Aaka and Foh--"and perhaps his friend or brother"--here he
looked at Moananga. "Yes, without doubt that is the law. The cave only
belongs to the chief while he can defend it with his hands. If another
rises who is stronger than he, he may take the cave, and the women,
also the children if there are any, and kill them or make them slaves,
until his strength begins to fail him and he in turn is killed by some
mightier man."

"I know it," said Wi. "Hearken again. Henga has done me wrong; he
stole and murdered my daughter Fo-a. Therefore I would kill him. Also
he rules the tribe cruelly. No man's wife or daughter or robe or food
is safe from him. His wickedness makes the gods angry. Why is it that
the summers have turned cold and the spring does not come? I say it is
because of the wickedness of Henga. Therefore, I would kill him and
take the cave, and rule well and gently so that every man may have
plenty of food in his hut and sleep safe at night. What say you?"

Now Wini-wini the Shudderer spoke, shaking in all his limbs:

"We say that you must do what you will, Wi, but that we will not mix
with the matter. If we mix, when you are killed, as you will be--for
Henga is mightier than you--yes, he is the tiger, he is the bull of
the woods, he is the roaring bear--then he will kill us also. Do what
you will, but do it alone. We turn our backs on you, we put our hands
before our eyes and see nothing."

Pag spat upon the ground and said in his low, growling voice that
seemed to come out of his stomach:

"I think that you will see something one night when the stars are
shining. I think, Wini-wini, that one night you will meet that which
will make you shudder yourself to pieces."

"It is the wolf-man," exclaimed Wini-wini. "Protect me! Why should the
wolf-man threaten me when we are gathered to talk?"

Nobody answered, because if some were afraid of Pag, all, down to the
most miserable slave-woman, despised Wini-wini.

"Take no heed of his words, Brother," said Moananga the Happy-faced.
"I will go up with you to the cave-mouth when you challenge Henga, and
so I think will many others to be witnesses of the challenge,
according to the custom of our fathers. Let those stop behind who
will. You will know what to think of them when you are chief and sit
in the cave."

"It is well," said Wi. "Let us go at once."




CHAPTER V



THE AX THAT PAG MADE


This matter being settled, there followed a jabber of argument as to
the method of conveying the challenge of Wi to Henga the chief. Urk
the Aged was consulted as to precedents and made a long speech in
which he contradicted himself several times. Hou the Unstable sprang
up at length and said that he was not afraid and would be the leader.
Suddenly, however, he changed his mind, declaring he remembered that
this office by right belonged to Wini-wini the Horn-Blower, who must
sound three blasts at the mouth of the cave to summon the chief. To
this all assented with a shout, perhaps because there was a sense of
humour even in their primitive minds, and protest as he would, Wini-
wini was thrust forward with his horn.

Then the procession started, Wini-wini going first, followed close
behind by Pag in the bleeding wolfskin, who, from time to time,
pricked him in the back with his sharp flint knife to keep him
straight. Next came Wi himself with his brother Moananga, and after
these the elders and the rest of the people.

At least, they started thus to cover the three hundred paces or so
which lay between them and the cliff, but before they reached the
cave, most of them lagged behind so that they were dotted in a long
line reaching from the meeting place to its entrance.

Indeed, here remained only Wini-wini, who could not escape from Pag,
Wi, Moananga, and, at a little distance behind, Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-
Omen, prophesying evil in a ceaseless stream of words. At his side,
too, was Aaka, walking boldly and looking down at his withered shape
with scorn. Of the remainder, the bravest, drawn by curiosity, kept
within hearing, but the rest stayed at a distance or hid themselves.

"Blow!" growled Pag to Wini-wini and, as he still hesitated, pricked
him in the back with his knife.

Then Wini-wini blew a quavering blast.

"Blow again louder," said Pag.

Wini-wini set the horn to his lips, but before a sound came out of it,
a large stone hurled from the cave struck him in the middle and down
he went, writhing and gasping.

"Now you have something to shake for," said Pag, as he waddled to one
side lest another stone should follow.

None came, but out of the cave with a roar rushed a huge, hairy,
black-browed fellow waving a great wooden club--Henga himself. He was
a mighty, thick limbed man of about forty years of age, with a chest
like a bull's, a big head from which long black hair fell upon his
shoulders, and a wide, thick-lipped mouth whence projected yellow
tusk-like teeth. From his shoulders, in token of his rank, hung the
hide of a cave tiger and round his neck was a collar made from its
claws and teeth.

"Who sends that dog to waken me from my rest?" he shouted in his
bellowing voice, and pointed with the club to Wini-wini, twisting on
the ground.

"I do," answered Wi, "I and all the people. I, Wi, whose child you
murdered, come to challenge you, the chief, to fight me for the rule
of the tribe, as you must do according to the law, in the presence of
the tribe."

Henga ceased from his shouting and glared at him.

"Is it so?" he asked in a quiet voice that had in it a hiss of hate.
"Know that I hoped that you would come on this errand and that is why
I killed your brat to give you courage, as I will kill the other that
remains to you," and he glanced at the boy Foh who stood at a
distance. "You have troubled me for long, Wi, with your talk and
threats against me, of which I am hungry to make an end. Now, tell me,
when does it please the people to see me break your bones?"

"When the sun is within an hour of its setting, Henga, for I have a
fancy to sleep in the cave to-night as chief of the people," answered
Wi quietly.

Henga glowered at him, gnawing at his lip, then said:

"So be it, dog. I shall be ready at the meeting place an hour before
the sun sets. For the rest, it is Aaka who will sleep in the cave
to-night, not you who I think will sleep in the bellies of the wolves.
Now begone, for a salmon has been sent to me, the first of the year,
and I who love salmon would cook and eat it."

Then Aaka spoke, saying:

"Eat well, devil-man who murders children, for I, the mother, tell you
that it shall be your last meal."

Laughing hoarsely, Henga went back into the cave, and Wi and all the
others slipped away.

"Who gave Henga the salmon?" asked Moananga idly, as one who would say
something.

"I did," answered Pag, who was walking beside him but out of earshot
of Wi. "I caught it last night in a net and sent it to him, or rather
caused it to be laid on a stone by the mouth of the cave."

"What for?" asked Moananga.

"Because Henga is greedy over salmon, especially the first of the
year. He will eat the whole fish and be heavy when it comes to
fighting."

"That is clever; I should never have thought of that," said Moananga.
"But how did you know that Wi was going to challenge Henga?"

"I did not know, nor did Wi. Yet I guessed it because Aaka sent him to
consult the gods. When a woman sends a man to seek a sign from the
gods, that sign will always be the one she wishes. So at least she
will tell him, and he will believe."

"That is cleverer still," said Moananga, staring at the dwarf with his
round eyes. "But why does Aaka wish Wi to fight Henga?"

"For two reasons. First, because she would revenge the killing of her
child, and, second, because she thinks that Wi is the better man, and
that presently she will be the wife of the chief of the tribe. Still,
she is not sure about this, because she has made a plan, should Wi be
defeated, that I must kill her and Foh at once, which I shall do
before I kill myself. Or perhaps I shall not kill myself, at any rate,
until I have tried to kill Henga."

"Would you then be chief of the tribe, Wolf-man?" asked Moananga,
astonished.

"Perhaps, for a little while; for do not those who have been spat upon
and reviled always wish to rule the spitters and the revilers? Yet I
will tell who are Wi's brother and love him that, if he dies, I, who
love him better and love no one else, save perhaps Foh, because he is
his son, shall not live long after him. No, then I should pass on the
chieftainship to you, Moananga, and be seen no more, though perhaps in
the after years you might hear me at night howling round the huts in
winter--with the wolves, Moananga, to which fools say I belong."

Moananga stared again at this sinister dwarf whose talk frightened
him. Then, that he might talk of something else, asked him:

"Which of these two do you think will conquer, Pag?"

Pag stopped and pointed to the sea. At some distance from the shore a
mighty struggle was in progress between a thresher shark and a whale.
The terrible shark had driven the whale into shallow water, where it
floundered, unable to escape by sounding. Now the sea wolf, as it is
called, was leaping high into the air, and each time as it fell it
smote the whale upon the head with its awful sword-like tail, blow
upon blow that echoed far and wide. The whale rolled in agony, beating
the water to a foam with its giant flukes, but for all its size and
bulk could do nothing. Presently, it began to gasp and opened its
great mouth, whereon the thrasher, darting between its jaws, seized
its tongue and tore it out. Then the whale rolled over and began to
bleed to death.

"Look," said Pag. "There is Henga the huge and mighty and there is Wi
the nimble, and Wi wins the day and will feed his fill upon whale's
flesh, he and his friends. That is my answer, and the omen is very
good. Now I go to make Wi ready for this battle."

When Pag reached the hut, he sent Aaka and Foh out of it, leaving
himself alone with Wi. Then, causing Wi to strip off his cloak, he
made him lie down and rubbed him all over with seal oil. Also, with a
sharp flint and a shell ground to a fine edge, slowly and painfully he
cut is hair short, so short that it could give no hold to Henga's
hand, and, this done, greased what remained of it with the seal oil.
Next he bade Wi sleep awhile and left the hut, taking with him Wi's
stone ax, also his spear, that with which he had killed the wolf, and
his flint knife that was hafted with two flat pieces of ivory rubbed
down from a walrus tusk and lashed onto the end of the flint.

Outside the hut, he met Aaka, who was wandering to and fro in an ill-
humour. She made as though she would pass him, setting her face toward
the hut.

"Nay," said Pag, "you do not enter."

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because Wi rests and must not be disturbed."

"So a misshapen monster, a wolf-man hated of all, who lives on bounty,
may enter my husband's hut, when I, the wife, may not," she said
furiously.

"Yes, for presently he goes upon a man's business, namely, to kill his
enemy or be killed of him, and it is best that no woman should come
near to him till the thing is ended."

"You say that because you hate women, who will not look on you, Pag."

"I say it because women take away the strength of men and suck out
their courage and disturb them with weak words."

She leapt to one side as though to rush past him, but Pag leapt also,
lifting the spear in his hand, whereon she stopped, for she feared the
dwarf.

"Listen," he said. "You do ill to reproach me, Aaka, who am your best
friend. Still, I do not blame you overmuch for I know the reason of
your hate. You are jealous of me because Wi loves me more than he does
you, as does Foh, if in another fashion."

"Loves you, you abortion, you hideous one!" she gasped.

"Yes, Aaka, who, it seems, do not know that there are different sorts
of love, that of the man for the woman which comes and goes, and that
of man for man which changes not. I say that you are jealous. Only
this day I told Wi that, if he had not taken me with him hunting but
had left me to watch Fo-a, she would not have been stolen and killed
by yonder cave dweller. It was a lie. I could have refused to go
hunting with Wi and he would have let me be, who knows that always I
have a reason for what I do. I went with him because of words which
you had spoken which you will remember well. I told you that Fo-a was
in danger from Henga the cave-dweller and that I had best watch her,
and you said that no girl child of yours should be watched by a wolf's
cub and that you would take care of her yourself, which you did not
do. Therefore, because you goaded me, I went hunting and Fo-a was
taken and killed."

Now Aaka hung her head, answering nothing, for she knew that his words
were true.

"Let that be," went on Pag. "The dead are dead, and well dead,
perchance. Now, although I speak wisely to you, you would thwart me
again and go in to awaken Wi, even when I tell you that to do so may
turn the fight against him and bring about your death, and Foh's as
well."

"Does Wi sleep?" asked Aaka, weakening a little.

"I think he sleeps because I bade him, and in such matters he obeys
me. Also, last night he slept little. But the road is open and I have
said my say. Go and look for yourself. Go wake him up and ask if he is
asleep and wear him out with your woman's talk, and tell him what
dreams have come to you about Fo-a and the gods, and thus make him
ready to fight the devil giant, Henga."

"I go not," she said, stamping her foot, "lest, if Wi fall, your
poisoned tongue should put it about that I was the cause of his death.
But know, misshapen, outcast wolf-man, that, should he conquer and
live, he must choose between you and me, for if he takes you to dwell
with him in the cave, then I stay here in the hut."

Pag laughed deep down in his throat after his fashion and answered:

"That would be peace indeed, were it not, as I remember, that, if
Henga dies, he leaves behind him sundry fair women who also live in
the cave and doubtless will be hard to dislodge. Still, in this
matter, as in all others, do what you will. Only I tell you, Aaka,
that you do ill to revile me, whom you may need presently to help you
out of the world."

Then, ceasing from his mockery and the rolling of his great head from
side to side, as was his habit when he mocked, he looked her in the
face with his one bright eye with which folk said he could see in the
dark like a wild-cat, and said quietly:

"Why do you reproach me because I am hideous? Did I make my own shape
or was it the gift of a woman? Did I throw away my right eye or did a
woman dash it out against a stone? Afterward, did I leave the camp to
starve in the winter, or did women drive me out because I told them
the truth? Why are you angry with me because I love Wi who saved me
from the cruelty of women, and your son Foh whom Wi caused to be? Why
will you not understand that, although I be misshapen, yet I have more
wisdom than all the rest of you and a larger heart, and that the
wisdom and the heart are the servants of Wi and those with whom he has
to do? Why should you be jealous of me?"

"Would you know, Pag? Because you speak truth. Because you are more to
Wi than I am--yes, and to Foh also. When one comes whom Wi loves
better than he does you, then we may be friends again, but not
before."

"That may happen," said Pag reflectively. "Now trouble me no more, who
go to make ready Wi's weapons for this fight and who have no time to
waste. Go now to the hut; as I have said, the way is open, and tell
your own tale to Wi."

Aaka hesitated, then she said:

"Nay, I come to help you with the weapons, for my fingers are defter
than yours. Let there be peace between us for an hour, or gibe on if
you will, and I will not answer."

Again Pag laughed his great laugh, saying:

"Women are strange, so strange that even I cannot weigh or measure
them. Come on! Come on! The edges of the spear and ax need rubbing,
and the lashings are worn."

For a while did Pag and Aaka, with the lad Foh to help them, fetching
and carrying or holding hide strips, labour at the simple weapons of
Wi, pointing the spear and grinding the edge of the ax. When this ax
was as sharp as they could make it, Pag weighed the thing in his hand
and cast it down with a curse.

"It is too light," he said. "What chance has this toy against the club
of Henga?"

Then he rose and ran to his hovel at the back of the hut whence he
returned bearing in his hand a glittering lump fashioned to the shape
of an ax.

"See here," he said. "This is not much larger, yet it has thrice the
weight. I found it on the mountainside, one of many shattered
fragments, and last winter, working by the light of seal oil, I
fashioned it."

Aaka took it in her hand, which it bore to the ground, so heavy was
it. Then she felt its edge, which was sharper than that of new-flaked
flint, and asked what it was.

"I don't know," answered Pag. "Outside it looks like stone that has
been in hot fire, but see, within it shines. Also, it is so hard that
I could only work it with another piece of the same stone, hammering
it after it had lain in fire until it turned red, and polishing it
with fine sand and water."

Here it may be stated that, although he knew it not, this substance
was meteoric iron that had fallen from heaven, and that Pag, by the
light of nature, had become one of the first of blacksmiths. When,
finding that he could not touch it otherwise because of its hardness,
he thrust that lump into a hot fire till it turned red and beat it
upon a stone with another lump, he learned the use of iron and took
one of mankind's first and greatest steps forward.

"It will not break?" said Aaka doubtfully.

"No," answered Pag. "I have tried. The blow that shatters the best
stone ax leaves it unmarked. It will not break. But that which it hits
will break. I made it for myself, but Wi shall have it. Now help me."

Then he produced the handle that, like the blade, was of a new sort,
being fashioned with infinite patience and labour from the solid lower
leg bone of a gigantic deer that he had found blackened and half
fossilized when digging in a bog by the banks of a stream to make a
waterhole, doubtless that of the noble creature that is now known as
/cervus giganteus/ or the Irish deer, which once roamed the woods of
the early world. Having cut off a suitable length of this bone, he had
made a deep slot, dividing the end in two to receive the neck of the
ax, which it exactly fitted, projecting two inches or so above this
neck. Now, with wonderful skill, helped by the others, he set to work,
and with sinews and strips of damp hide cut from the skins of
reindeer, he lashed haft and blade together, knotting the ends of the
strips again and again. Then, having heated fossil gum, or amber of
which there was plenty to be found on the shore, in a shell till it
melted, he poured the resin over and between the hide strips, and as
it cooled, rubbed it smooth with a piece of stone. This done, he
plunged the finished ax into ice-cold water for a while, till the
resin was quite solid, after which he held it in the smoke of the fire
that burned near by to dry and shrink the hide strips by heat. Lastly,
in case the first should have cracked, he poured on more resin, cooled
it with a handful of snow, dried it in the smoke, and polished it.

At length all was finished, and with pride swelling in his heart, Pag
held up the weapon, saying:

"Behold the finest ax the tribe has ever seen!"

"The bone will not shatter?" asked Aaka the doubtful.

"Nay," he answered as he rubbed the smoke-dulled resin, "I have tested
it as I tested the blade. No man and no shock can break it. Moreover,
see, to make sure I have lashed it about with hide at every thumb's
length. Now let me go and wake Wi and arm him."

Still polishing the ax and its handle with a piece of skin as he went,
Pag entered the hut very quietly, leaving Aaka without. Wi slept on
like a child. Pag laid the ax upon the skin covering of his bed, and
going to the head of the hut, hid himself in the shadow. Then he
scraped with his foot on the floor, and Wi woke. The first thing his
eyes fell on was this ax. He sat up, lifted the ax and began to
examine it with eager eyes. When he had noted all its wonder--for to
him it was a most marvellous thing made of a glittering stone such as
he had never seen, that was thrice heavier than any stone, hafted with
black bone as hard as walrus ivory with a knob at the end of it
fashioned by rubbing down the knuckle joint, to save it from slipping
through the hand, lashed about here and there with neatly finished
strips of hide, double-edged and sharper than a flint flake, balancing
in the grasp also--oh! surely he dreamed and this was such a weapon as
the gods must use when they fought together in the bowels of the ice!

Pag waddled forward out of the shadow, saying:

"Time to arise, Wi. But tell me first, how do you like your new ax?"

"Surely the gods made it," gasped Wi. "With it I could kill a white
bear single-handed."

"Yes, the gods made it; it is a gift to you from the gods. How they
sent it, I will tell you afterward--that with it you may kill, not the
white brute that prowls in the darkness, but a fiercer beast who
ravens by day as well as by night. I tell you Wi, that this is the Ax
of Victory; holding it, you cannot be conquered. Hearken to me, Wi.
Henga will rush at you with his great club. Leap to one side and smite
with all your strength at his hands. If the blow from this ax falls
upon them, or upon the handle of the club where he grasps it, they or
it will be shorn through. Then, if his hands remain, he will rush at
you again, striving to seize you and crush you in his grip, or to
break your back or neck. If you have time, smite at his leg or knee,
cutting the tendons or crippling him. Should he still get a hold of
you, do your best to slip from his grasp, as being greased perhaps you
may, and before he can catch you again, hew at his neck, or head, or
backbone, as chance may offer, for this ax will not only bruise; it
will sink in, and slay him. Above all, do not lose hold of the ax--
see, there is a thong tied to its handle, twist it doubly round your
wrist thus and it will not come off. Nay, to make sure, I will tie it
there with a deer's sinew; hold out your hand."

Wi obeyed and, while very deftly Pag made the thong fast with the
sinew, answered:

"I understand, though whether I shall be able to do all or any of
these things, I do not know. Still it is a wondrous ax and I will try
to use it well."

Then Pag rubbed more oil all over Wi, looked once more at the ax to
make sure that the damp thongs had dried and shrunk tight upon the
haft in the warmth of the fire, and that the amber resin had set hard,
and, having given Wi a piece of dried fish soaked in seal oil to eat
and a little drink of water, threw a skin cloak over his shoulders and
led him from the hut.

Aaka was waiting outside, and with her Wi's brother, Moananga. She
stared at Wi and asked:

"Who has cut off my man's hair?"

"I have," answered Pag, "for a good reason."

She stamped her foot, saying coldly:

"How dare you touch his hair which I loved to see him wear long? I
hate you for it."

"Since you are minded to pick a quarrel with me, why not hate me for
this as well as for anything else? Yet, Aaka, you may have cause to
thank me for it in the end, though if so, it will only make you hate
me more."

"That cannot be," said Aaka, and they went on toward the meeting
place.

Here all the tribe was gathered in a ring, standing silent because
they were too moved for speech. On the issue of this fight hung their
fate. Henga they feared and hated, because he used them cruelly and
brought any who murmured to their death, while Wi they liked well. Yet
they dared say nothing who knew not how the fight would go and thought
that no man could stand against the strength of the giant Henga or
save himself from being crushed beneath his mighty club.

Still, they stared wonderingly at the new ax which Wi bore, and
pointed to it, nudging each other. Also they marvelled because his
hair had been cut off, for what reason they did not know, though they
thought it must be as an offering to the gods.

The time came. Although because of the cold mist that hung over sea
and shore the sun could not be seen, all knew that it was within an
hour of its setting and grew more silent than before. Presently the
voice of one who watched on the outskirts of the crowd called:

"He comes! Henga comes!" whereon, taking their eyes from Wi, they
turned and stared toward the cave. Emerging from the shadow of the
cliff, the giant appeared, walking toward them with a heavy tread but
unconcernedly. Wi stooped down and kissed Foh his son, beckoning to
Aaka to take charge of him. Then, followed by Moananga his brother and
by Pag, he walked to the centre of the open space where Urk the Aged,
the wizard, whose duty it was to recite the conditions of the duel in
the ancient form, stood waiting. As he went, Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-
Omen called to him:

"Farewell, Wi, whom we shall see no more. We shall miss you very much,
for I know not where we shall find so good a hunter or one who brings
in so much meat."

Pag turned, glowering at him, and said:

"Me at least you shall see again, croaking raven!"

Taking no note, Wi walked on. As he went, it came into his mind that,
while he lay asleep in the hut, he had dreamed a beautiful dream. He
could not remember much of it, but its substance was that he was
seated in a rich and lovely land where the sun shone and water rippled
and birds sang, where the air was soft and warm and the wild creatures
wandered round him unafraid and there was plenty of fragrant food to
eat. Then, in that sweet place, came his daughter Fo-a, grown very
fair and with a face that shone as moonlight shines upon the sea, and
set a garland of white flowers about his neck.

This was all he could recall of the dream, nor, indeed, did he search
for more of it, for this vision of Fo-a, the cruelly slain, brought
tears of rage to his eyes. Yet of a sudden his strength seemed to
double and he swore that he would kill Henga, even though afterward he
must enter that happy land of peace in which she seemed to wander.

The chief appeared before him wearing his cloak of tigerskin and
holding the great club in his left hand.

"It is well," muttered Pag to Wi. "Look, he is swollen; he has eaten
all the salmon!"

Henga, who was followed by two servants or slaves, stopped at a little
distance.

"What," he growled, "have I to fight this manikin's friends as well as
himself?"

"Not yet, Henga," answered Moananga boldly. "First kill the manikin;
afterward you can fight his friends."

"That will be easy," sneered Henga.

Then Urk advanced, waving a wand, and with a proud air called for
silence.




CHAPTER VI



THE DEATH OF HENGA


First, at great length, as master of the ancient customs of the tribe,
Urk set out the law of such combats as that of Wi and Henga. He told
how the chief only held his office and enjoyed his privileges by
virtue of the strength of his body, as does the bull of a herd. When a
younger and stronger than he arose, he might kill the chief, if he
could, and take his place. Only, according to the law, he must do so
in fair and open fight before the people, each combatant being armed
with a single weapon. Then, if he conquered, the cave was his with
those who dwelt there, and all would acknowledge him as chief;
whereas, if he were conquered, his body would be thrown to the wolves,
such being the fate of those that failed.

In short, though Urk knew it not, he was setting out the doctrine of
the survival of the fittest, and the rights of the strong over the
weak, as Nature preaches them in all her workings.

At this point, Henga showed signs of wishing to have done with Urk's
oratory, being, for reasons of his own, quite certain of a speedy
victory over an enemy whom he despised, and anxious to return to the
cave to receive the praises of the womenfolk and to sleep off the
salmon, which, as Pag guessed, he had devoured almost to the tail. But
Urk would not be silenced. Here he was master as keeper of the oral
records; head official and voice of the ceremonies of the tribe, who
naturally regarded any departure from established customs as one of
the worst of crimes.

Everything must be set out, Urk declared in a high and indignant
voice, otherwise how would he earn his fee of the robe and weapons of
the defeated?--here he cast covetous looks at Wi's strange ax, the
like of which he had never seen before, although his withered arm
could scarcely have found strength to lift it for a blow. He announced
loudly that once before in his youth he had assisted his father, who
was the First Wizard before him, to go through this ceremony, and the
garment he still wore--here he touched the shiny, hairless, and
tattered hide upon his shoulders--had been taken from the body of the
conquered. If he were interrupted now, he added, as Wizard he would
pronounce his most formidable curse upon the violator of tradition and
privilege, and what that meant probably both of them would understand.

Wi listened and said nothing, but Henga growled out:

"Be swift then, old fool, for I grow cold, and soon there will not be
enough light for me to see so to smash up this fellow, that even his
dog would not know him again."

Then Urk set out the reasons that caused Wi to challenge, which, being
angered by Henga's description of him as "old fool," he did with point
and acidity. He told how Wi alleged that Henga oppressed the people,
and gave startling instances of that oppression, all of them quite
true. He told of the kidnapping and murder of Wi's daughter Fo-a,
which Wi lay at the door of Henga, and of how the gods were wroth at
such a crime. Warming to his work, indeed, he began to advance other
grievances, not strictly connected with Wi; whereon Henga, able to
bear no more, rushed at Urk and sent his frail old body flying with a
kick of his huge foot.

As Urk picked himself up and hobbled off, calling down on Henga's head
his widest if somewhat confused wizard's curse, Henga threw off his
tigerskin cloak which a slave removed. As Wi did likewise, Pag, who
took the garment, whispered to him:

"Beware! He has something hidden in his right hand. He plays a trick."

Then he hobbled off with the cloak, leaving the giant and the hunter
facing each other at a distance of five paces.

Even as Pag went, Henga lifted his arm and with fearful force hurled
at Wi a flint knife set in a whale's tooth for handle, which he had
hidden in his great paw. But Wi, being warned, was watching, and as a
shout of "Ill done!" went up from the crowd, dropped to the ground so
that the knife whizzed over him. Next instant, he was up again,
charging at Henga, who now grasped the club with both hands and swung
it aloft to crush him.

Before it could fall, Wi, remembering Pag's counsel, smote with all
his strength. Henga sloped the club sideways to protect his head. Wi's
ax fell on it halfway up the handle, and the sharp steel, forged in
heaven's furnace, shore through the tough wood, so that the thick part
of the club fell to the ground, a sight that caused the people to
shout with wonder.

Henga threw the handle at Wi, striking him on the head and, as he
staggered back, picked up the thick end of the club. Wi paused to wipe
the blood out of his eyes, for the broken stick had grazed his skin.
Then again he charged at Henga, and keeping out of reach of the
shortened club, strove to smite him on the knee, once more following
the counsel of Pag. But the giant's arms were very long and the handle
of Wi's ax was short, so that the task was difficult. At length,
however, a blow went home and although no sinew was severed, cut into
Henga's flesh above the knee so deeply that he roared aloud.

Maddened with rage and pain, the giant changed his plan. Dropping the
club, as Wi straightened himself after the blow, he leapt at him and
gripped him in his huge arms, purposing to break his bones or hug him
to death as a bear does. They struggled together.

"All is over," said Whaka. "That man whom Henga embraces is dead."

Pag, who was standing beside him, smote him on the mouth, saying:

"Is it so? Look, raven, look!"

As he spoke, Wi slipped from the grasp of Henga as an eel slips from a
child's hand. Again Henga caught him by the head, but Wi's hair having
been cut and his scalp greased, he could not hold him. Then the giant
smote at him with his great fist, a mighty blow that caught Wi upon
the forehead and felled him to the ground. Before he could rise, Henga
hurled himself onto him and the two struggled there upon the sand.

Never before had the tribe seen a fight like this, nor did tradition
tell of such a one. They writhed, they twisted, they rolled over, now
this one uppermost, and now that one. Henga tried to get Wi by the
throat, but his hands would not hold on the oiled skin, and always the
hunter escaped from that deadly grasp, and twice or thrice found
opportunity to pound Henga's face with his fist.

Presently they were seen to rise together, the giant's arms still
about Wi, whom he dared not loose because he was weaponless, while the
ax still hung to the hunter's wrist. They wrestled, staggering to and
fro, covered with blood and sand and sweat. The watchers shook their
heads, for how, thought they, could any man stand against the weight
and strength of Henga? But Pag, noting everything with his quick eye,
whispered to Aaka, who forgetting her hate in her trouble and fear,
had drawn near to him:

"Keep courage, woman. The salmon does its work. Henga tires."

It was true. The grip of the giant loosened, his breath came in short
gasps, moreover, that leg into which the ax of Wi had cut began to
fail and he dared not put all his weight upon it. Still, gathering up
his strength, with a mighty effort he cast Wi from him with such force
that the hunter fell to the ground and lay there a moment, as though
he were stunned or the breath had been shaken out of him.

Now Moananga groaned aloud, waiting to see Henga spring upon his foe's
prostrate form and stamp him to death. But some change came over the
man. It was as though a sudden terror had taken him. Or perhaps he
thought that Wi was dead. If so he did not wait to look, but turning,
ran toward the cave. Wi, recovering his wits or his breath, or both,
sat up and saw. Then, with a shout, he leapt to his feet and sped
after Henga, followed by all the people; yes, even by Urk the Aged,
who hobbled along leaning on his wand of office.

Henga had a long start, but at every step his hurt leg grew weaker,
and Wi sped after him like a deer. At the very mouth of the cave, he
overtook him, and those who followed saw the flash of a falling ax and
heard the thud of its blow upon the back of Henga, who staggered
forward. Then the pair of them vanished into the shadow of the cave,
while the people halted without awaiting the issue, whatever it might
be.

A little while later, there was a stir in the shadows; out of them a
man appeared. It was Wi, who bore something in his hands, Wi with the
red ax still hanging from his right arm. He staggered forward; a ray
from the setting sun pierced the mists and struck full upon him and
that which he carried. Lo! it was the huge head of Henga.

For a moment Wi stood still like one bemused, while the tribe shouted
their welcome to him as chief by right of conquest. Then he swooned
and fell forward into the arms of Pag who, seeing that he was about to
fall, thrust himself past Aaka and caught him.



Because it was nigh at hand, Wi was carried into the cave, whence, now
that he was fallen the body of the giant Henga was dragged as though
it had been that of a dog and afterward, by the command of Wi, borne
to the foot of the glacier and as he had vowed, laid there as an
offering to the Ice-gods. Only some of those whom he had wronged and
who hated him took his head and, climbing a dead pine that stood near
by of which the top had been twisted out by the wind, stuck it upon
the jagged point of the broken tree, where it remained, its long locks
floating on the wind, grinning with empty eyes at the huts below.

When they entered it, this cave, which was very great, was found to be
full of women who, although he was still senseless, hastened to do
reverence to Wi as their future lord, and hung about him till, with
the help of Moananga and others, Pag drove them all out, saying that
if the chief Wi wanted any of them back again, he could send for them.
He added that he did not think this probable because they were all so
ugly, which was not true. So they went away, seeking shelter where
they could, and were very angry with Pag, more because he had said
that they were ugly than because he had driven them out, which they
guessed he had done because he did not trust them and feared lest
they, Henga's wives, should do Wi a mischief by poison or otherwise.

Wi, being laid upon Henga's bed in a side cave near to a brightly
burning fire, soon recovered from his swoon and, having drunk some
water that one of the slaves of the place gave to him, for these were
not driven out with the women, asked first for Foh, whom he embraced,
and next for Pag, whom he bade to find Aaka. But Aaka, learning that
he was recovered and little hurt, had gone, saying that she must
attend to the fire in her hut, lest it should go out, but would return
in the morning.

So Pag and Moananga fed Wi with food they found in the place, among it
a piece of that salmon which Henga had left to eat after the fight.
Having swallowed this, Wi turned over and went to sleep, being utterly
outworn, so that he could not even speak. Foh crept onto the bed by
his side, for he would not leave his father, and did likewise.

Wi slept all night and woke in the morning to find himself alone, for
Foh had gone. He was very stiff and bruised, with a lump on the back
of his head where he had fallen when Henga threw him to the ground.
Also, he was sore all over from the grip of the giant's hands, and
there was a deep cut on his forehead where the handle of the club had
struck him, and his skin was scratched by Henga's claw-like nails.
Still, he felt within himself that no bone was broken and that his
body was sound and whole. Thankfulness filled his heart that this
should be so, when he might well have been as Henga was to-day.

To whom did he owe this safety--the Ice-gods? Perhaps, and if so, he
thanked them, he who did not desire to die and felt that he had work
to do for the people. Yet the Ice-gods seemed very cold and far away,
and although the stone had fallen, it might have been by chance, so
that he wondered whether they troubled themselves about him and his
fate. Pag thought that there were no gods, and perhaps he was right.
At least this was clear, that, if it had not been for Pag, the gods
would not have saved him yesterday from Henga the giant, the mightiest
man that was told of in the tale of the tribe even by Urk and others,
who made up stories and sang them by the fire on winter nights, Henga
who once had caught a wild bull by the horns and twisted its neck with
his hands.

Pag it was who had oiled him all over and cut off his hair so that
Henga could not hold him. Pag it was who had made and given to him the
wonderful ax that lay on the bed beside him, its thong still about his
wrist, without which he never could have smitten Henga down as he
gained the safety of his cave, or dealt him that deep cut upon the leg
which caused him to give up the fight and run even when he, Wi, lay
prostrate on the ground; caused him, too, to limp and stumble in his
flight so that he could be overtaken. Pag it was, too, who had put a
great heart into him, telling him not to be afraid for he would
conquer on that day, words which he remembered even when all seemed
finished. And now Henga was dead, for after he fell, smitten on the
back, two blows of the wonderful ax had hewed right through his thick
neck as no other weapon could have done, Fo-a was avenged, Foh and
Aaka were saved, and he, Wi, was lord of the cave and chief of the
people. Therefore he, Wi, swore this, that Pag, though a dwarf
deformed, whom all hated and named wolf-man, should be next to him
among them and his counsellor. Yes, he swore it, although he knew that
it would please Aaka little because of her jealous heart.

Whilst he lay and thought thus, by the light that crept into the cave
Wi noticed that three of the women, the youngest and fairest among
them, had returned to the place and were standing together at a
distance, talking and looking toward him. Presently they came to a
decision, for they advanced very quietly, which caused Wi to grip his
ax. Seeing that his eyes were open, they knelt down and touched the
ground with their foreheads, calling him lord and master, saying that
they wished to stay with him who was so great and strong that he had
killed Henga, and swearing to be faithful to him.

Wi listened astonished, not knowing what to answer. Least of all did
he wish to take these women into his household, if for no other reason
because anyone whom Henga had touched was hateful to him, yet, being
kind-hearted, he did not desire to tell them this roughly. While he
was seeking for soft words, one of the women crept forward, still upon
her knees, and seizing his hand, pressed it against her forehead and
kissed it. It was at this moment that Aaka appeared and followed by
Pag. The women sprang up and, running a few paces, huddled themselves
together, while Pag laughed hoarsely, and Aaka, drawing herself to her
full height, said:

"It seems that you soon make yourself at home in your new house,
Husband, since already I find Henga's cast-offs kissing you in love."

"Love!" answered Wi. "Am I in a state for love? The women came--I did
not seek them."

"Oh! yes, without doubt they came, knowing where they would be
welcome, Husband; indeed, perhaps, they never went away. Of a truth, I
perceive that there will be no room for me in this chief's cave. Well,
I am glad of it, who love my own hut better than such a darksome
hole."

"Yet often, Wife, I have heard you say when the wind whistled through
the hut in winter, that you wished you lay safe and warm in this
cave."

"Did I? Well, I have changed my mind, who had never seen the place,
not having been one of Henga's family."

"Peace, Woman," said Pag, "and let us see how the chief Wi fares. As
for those slaves, I have hunted them out once and presently will do so
again. Chief, we bring you food. Can you eat?"

"I think so," answered Wi, "if Aaka will hold me up."

Aaka looked wrathfully at the women and still more wrathfully at Pag,
so that Wi thought that she was about to refuse. If so, she changed
her mind and supported Wi, who was too stiff to stand up alone, while
Foh, who had now returned, fed him with pieces of food, chattering all
the while about the fight.

"Were you not afraid for your father?" asked Wi at length, "who must
fight a giant twice his size?"

"Oh, no," said Foh cheerfully. "Pag told me that you would win in the
end and that therefore I must never be afraid, and Pag is always
right. Still," he added, shaking his head, "when I saw you lying on
the ground and not moving and believed that Henga was about to jump on
you, then I began to think that for once Pag might be wrong."

Wi laughed and, lifting his hand with difficulty, patted Foh's curling
hair. Pag in the background growled:

"Never think that I am wrong again, for the god lives on the faith of
his worshippers"--words that Foh did not in the least understand. Nor
did Aaka quite, but guessing that Pag was comparing himself to a god,
she hated him more than ever and frowned. Although she believed in
them after her fashion, because her forefathers had done so before
her, she was not a spiritual woman and did not like his talk of gods,
who, if, in fact, they existed at all, were, she was sure, beings to
be feared. It was true that she had sent Wi to worship the Ice-gods in
which he put faith and to watch for the sign of the falling stone. But
that was because she had made up her mind that the time had come for
him to fight Henga and avenge the death of Fo-a, if he could, taking
the risk of being killed, and knew that at this time of year at
sunrise a stone was almost certain to fall from the crest of the
glacier which was strewn with hundreds of them, and that without some
sign he would not move. Indeed, she had made sure that one or more of
those stones would fall upon that very morning. Also, she had some
gift of foresight with which women are often endowed, especially among
Northern people, that told her Wi would conquer Henga. She said that
something of this had been revealed to her, and it was true enough
that she had dreamed that Fo-a had appeared and told her that Wi would
work vengeance upon Henga, because the thirst for vengeance and desire
for the death of Henga were always present to her mind.

Therefore she frowned and told Foh sharply that it was foolish to
believe sayings because they came out of the mouth of Pag.

"Yet, Mother," answered Foh, "what Pag said was true. Moreover, he
made the wonderful, sharp ax, and he oiled Father's skin and cut off
his hair, which none of us thought of doing."

Now Pag, wishing to stop this talk, broke in:

"These things are nothing, Foh, and if I did them, it is only because
a hideous deformed one such as I am, who was born different from
others, must think and protect himself and those he loves by wisdom,
as do the wolves and other wild beasts. People who are handsome like
your father and mother do not need to think, for they protect
themselves in different ways."

"Yet perhaps they think as much as you do, dwarf," said Aaka angrily.

"Yes, Aaka, doubtless they think, only to less purpose. The difference
is that such as I think right and they think wrong."

Without waiting for an answer, Pag waddled off very swiftly on some
business of his own. Aaka watched him go with a puzzled look in her
fine eyes, then asked:

"Is Pag going to live with you in this cave, Husband?"

"Yes, Wife. Now that I am chief, he to whom I owe so much, he the Wise
and the Ax-Giver, will be my counsellor."

"Then I shall live in my hut," she answered, "where you can visit me
when it pleases you. I hate this place, it smells of Henga and his
slave women, bah!"

Then she went away, to return later, it is true. Yet, as to sleeping
in the cave, she kept her word--that is, until winter came.




CHAPTER VII



THE OATH OF WI


Being very strong and healthy, Wi soon recovered from this great
fight, although for a time he suffered from festering sores where he
had been scratched by Henga, whose nails, it would seem, were
poisonous as are a wolf's teeth. Indeed, on the following day, he came
out of the cave and was received by all the people who were waiting
without to give him welcome as the new chief. This they did very
heartily, and next, through the mouth of Urk the Aged, went on to set
out their grievances, of which they had prepared a long list. These
they suggested, he, the present ruler, should redress.

First they complained of the climate, which of late years had grown so
strangely cold and sunless. As to this, he answered that they must
make prayer to the Ice-gods, whereon someone cried out that, if they
did, these gods would only send them more ice, of which they had
enough already, an argument that Wi could not combat. He said,
however, that perhaps the weather had changed because of the evil
doings of Henga, and now that he had gone it might change again.

Next they went on to speak of a delicate and domestic matter. Women,
they pointed out, were very scarce among them, so much so that some
men, although they were prepared to marry the ugliest or the most
evil-tempered, could find no wives and make no homes. Yet certain of
the strongest and richest took as many as three or four into their
households, while the late chief, by virtue of his rank and power, had
swallowed up from fifteen to twenty of the youngest and best-looking,
whom they supposed Wi intended to keep for himself.

On this point Wi replied that he intended nothing of the sort, as he
would make clear in due season, and for the rest, that women were few
because of their habit of exposing female children at birth, rather
than be at the pains of rearing and feeding them.

Then they went on to other matters, such as the pressure of taxation,
or its primeval equivalent. The chief took too much, they said, and
gave too little. He did not work himself and produced nothing, yet he
and all his great household expected to be supported in luxury and
with the best. Moreover, he seized their wives and daughters, raided
their stores of food or skins, and occasionally committed murder.

Lastly, he favoured certain rich men among them--here Urk looked hard
at Turi the Food-Hoarder, the Avaricious, and at Rahi the Rich, the
trader in fish hooks, skins, and flint instruments, which he caused
to be manufactured by forced labour, only paying the makers with a
little food in times of want. These rich men, they alleged, were
protected in their evildoing by the chief, to whom they paid a heavy
tithe of their ill-gotten goods, in return for which he promoted them
to positions of honour and gave them fine names such as Counsellor,
ordering that others should bow down to them.

Wi said that he would look into these practices and try to put a stop
to them.

Finally, they called attention to the breaking of their ancient
customs, as when he who had killed an animal, or trapped it in a pit,
or found it dead, or caught it fishing, and proposed to lay it up for
the winter, was robbed of it by a horde of hungry idlers who wished to
live on the industrious without toiling for themselves.

Into this matter also Wi said that he would inquire.

Then he announced that he summoned the whole tribe to a gathering on
the day of the next full moon, when he would announce the results of
his deliberations and submit new laws to be approved by the tribe.

During the time which elapsed between this meeting and that of the
full moon, namely, seventeen days, Wi thought a great deal. For hours
he would walk upon the shore, accompanied only by Pag, whom Aaka
contemptuously named his "shadow," with whom he consulted deeply.
Toward the end of the time, also, he called in Urk the Aged, Moananga
his brother, and two or three other men, none of the latter of much
prominence, but whom he knew to be honest and industrious.

The rest of the tribe, devoured by curiosity, tried to wring from
these men what it might be that the chief talked of with them. They
would say nothing. Then they set the women on to them, who, being even
more curious, did their best by means of many wiles to find out what
all wanted to know. Even Tana, Moananga's wife, the sweet and gentle,
played a part in this game, saying that she would not speak to him or
even look at him until he told her. But he would not, nor would the
others, whereupon it was decided that Wi, or Pag, or both of them,
must have some great magic, since it sufficed to bridle the tongues of
men even when women tempted them.

Now a strange thing happened. From the day that Wi became chief, the
weather mended. At length the cold, snowy-looking clouds rolled away;
at length the piercing wind ceased to blow out of the north and east;
at length, though very late, the spring, or rather the summer, came,
for that year there was no spring. Seals appeared, though not in their
usual quantity, the salmon, which seemed to have been icebound, ran up
the river in shoals, while eider and other ducks arrived and nested.

"Late come, soon gone," said Pag, as he noted these things; "still,
better that than nothing."

Thus it came about that, on the appointed day, the tribe, full of food
and in high good humour, met its chief, whom it felt to be an
auspicious person. Even Aaka was good-humoured, and when Tana, who was
her relation both by blood and because she was the wife of Wi's
brother, asked her what was about to happen, she answered, laughing:

"I don't know. But no doubt we shall be told some nonsense which Wi
and that wolf-man make up together--empty words like the cackling of
wild geese, which makes a great noise and is soon forgot."

"At any rate," said Tana inconsequently, "Wi is behaving very well to
you, for I know that he has sent away all those women slaves of
Henga."

"Oh! yes, he is behaving well enough, but how long will it last? Is it
to be expected, now that he has become chief, that he will be
different from other chiefs, seeing that one man is like the rest?
They are all the same. Moreover," she added acidly, "if he has sent
away the women, he has kept Pag."

"What can that matter to you?" asked Tana, opening her big eyes.

"Much more than all the rest, Tana. If you could understand it, which
you cannot, it is of Wi's mind that I am jealous, not of anything else
about him, and this dwarf has his mind."

"Indeed!" said Tana, staring at her. "There is a strange fancy. For my
part, anyone is welcome to Moananga's mind. It is of him that I am
jealous, and with very good reason, not of his mind."

"No," said Aaka sharply, "because he has not got one. With Wi it is
otherwise; his mind is more than his body, and that is why I would
keep it for myself."

"Then you should learn to be as clever as Pag," answered Tana, with
gentle irritation as she turned to talk to someone else.



The people were gathered at the Talking-place in front of the cave,
the same spot where Wi had conquered Henga. There they stood or sat in
a semicircle, those of the more consequence in front and the rest
behind. Presently, Wini-wini blew a blast on his horn, a strong and
steady blast, for this time he feared no evil from rocks or otherwise
to announce the appearance of the chief. Then Wi, clad in the
tigerskin cloak that Henga used to wear, which, as Aaka remarked, was
too big for him and much frayed, advanced followed by Moananga, Urk,
Pag, and the others, and sat down upon a stool made from two joints of
the backbone of a whale lashed together, which had been placed there
in readiness for him.

"Is all the tribe gathered here?" asked Wini-wini the Herald, to which
spokesmen answered that it was, except a few who would not come.

"Then hearken to the chief Wi the Great Hunter, a mighty man, the
conqueror of Henga the Evil, that is, unless anyone wishes first to
fight him for his place," and he paused.

As nobody answered--for who in his senses wished to face the wonderful
ax that had chopped off the great head of Henga, whereof the hollow
eyes still stared at them from the broken trunk of a neighbouring
tree?--Wi rose and began his address, saying:

"O people of the tribe, we believe that there are no others like us
anywhere--at least, we have seen none upon the beach or in the woods
around, though it is true that, in the ice yonder, behind the mighty
Sleeper, is something that looks like a man. If so, he died long ago,
unless indeed he is a god. Perhaps he was a forefather of the tribe
who went into the ice to be buried there. Being therefore the only
men, and, though it is true that in some ways they are stronger than
we are, much greater than the beast people, for we can think and talk
and build huts, and do things that the beasts cannot do, it is right
that we should show how much better we are than they by our conduct to
each other." As it had never occurred to the people to compare
themselves relatively to the animals around them, these lofty
sentiments were received in silence. Indeed, if they thought about the
matter at all, most of them, comparing men and the beasts, would have
been inclined to give the palm to the latter.

Could any man, they would have said, and in fact did say in private
argument afterward, match the strength of the aurochs, the wild bull
of the woods, or of the whale of the waters. Could any man swim like a
seal or fly like a bird, or be as swift and savage as the striped
tiger that dwelt or used to dwell in caves, or hunt in packs like the
fierce ravening wolves, or build such houses as the birds did, or fly
through the air, or do many other things with the perfection of the
creatures which lived and moved in the seas and sky or upon the earth?
While, as for the other side of the matter, were not these creatures
in their own way as clever as man was? Also, although their language
was not to be understood, did they not talk together as men did and
worship their own gods? Who could doubt it that had heard the wolves
and dogs howling at the moon? But of all this at that time they said
nothing.

Having laid down this general rule, Wi went on to say that, as things
were thus, he had given ear to the complaints of the people, and after
consulting with sundry of the wisest among them, had determined that
the time had come to make new laws which all must bind themselves to
obey. Or if all would not, then those who refused must give way to the
majority who consented to them, or if they rebelled, must be treated
as evildoers and punished. If they agreed to this, let them say so
with one voice.

This they did, first because they were tired of sitting still and it
gave them an opportunity of shouting, and second because they had not
heard the laws. Only one or two of the most cunning exclaimed that
they would like to hear the laws first, but these were overruled by
the cries of general approbation.

"To begin with," continued Wi, "there was the matter of scarcity of
women, which could only be remedied to some extent by every man in
future binding himself to be content with a single wife, as he, Wi,
was prepared to do, swearing by the gods that he would keep to his
oath and calling down on his own head and on the head of the people of
which he was the chief the anger and the vengeance of the gods should
he break it and should they allow him to do so."

Now, in the silence which followed this amazing announcement, Tana
whispered to Aaka delightedly:

"Do you hear, Sister? What do you think of this law?"

"I think that it amounts to nothing at all," answered Aaka
contemptuously. "Wi and the other men will obey it until they see
someone who makes them wish to break it; moreover, many of the women
will find it hateful. When they grow old, will they wish to have to do
all the work of the household and to cook the food for the whole
family? That for this law, which is foolish, like all new things!"
Here she snapped her fingers. "Still, let it go on, seeing that it
will give us a stick with which to beat our husbands when they forget
it, as doubtless Wi himself will find out before all is done, the
silly dreamer who thinks that he can change the nature of men with a
few words. Unless, indeed, it was Pag who put it into his head, Pag
who is neither man nor woman, but just a dwarf and a wolfhound."

"Wolfhounds are very useful sometimes, Aaka," said Tana reflectively,
then turned to listen to the voices about her.

These, as it happened, were many, for as soon as the meaning of Wi's
startling proposal had come home to the minds of his audience, great
tumult arose. All the men who had no wives, or wished for those of
others, shouted for joy, as did many of the women who were members of
large households and therefore much neglected. On the other hand, some
of the lords of those households protested with vigour, whereas others
acquiesced with a shrug and a smile.

Long and loud was the debate, but at length it ended in a compromise,
the polygamists agreeing to the proposal provided that they were
allowed to keep that wife whom they liked best; also, to change her
when they wished, by mutual consent of all concerned. As public
opinion among the tribe, an easy-going folk, was tolerant on such
matters, ultimately his solution was accepted by all except by Wi
himself. He, with the new-born enthusiasm of the reformer, and as one
who wished to set an example, rose and exempted himself solemnly from
the arrangement.

"Others may do what they will," he said, "but it is known that I, the
chief, will never change my wife while she lives, no, not even if she
desires me to do so, which can scarcely happen. Hearken, O People,
once more I swear by the gods to lay their curse upon me if I break
this, my oath. Moreover, lest at any time I should grow weak and
foolish and be tempted so to do, I pray the gods, if that chances, to
lay their curse upon the people also, all of them, from the oldest to
the youngest."

Here some of his audience grew uneasy and a voice shouted out:

"For what reason?"

"Because," answered Wi, in his burning zeal, "knowing the evil that my
ill-doing would bring upon your heads, never would I yield to folly, I
who am your chief and your protector. Also, if I went mad and did such
a thing, you could kill me."

Silence followed this remarkable declaration, in the midst of which
Hotoa the Slow-speeched at last got out a question.

"How would killing you help us, Wi, if the curse for which you have
been asking had already fallen upon our heads? Moreover, who is likely
to kill you while you have that wonderful ax with which you chopped
Henga in two?" he asked.

Before Wi could think of a suitable answer, for the question was
shrewd and the point one which he had not considered, the general
argument broke out again, many women taking part in it at the top of
their voices, so that he lost his opportunity. At length three men
were thrust forward, a somewhat ominous trio as it happened, Pitokiti
the Unlucky, Hou the Unstable, and Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-Omen, of whom
Whaka was the spokesman.

"Chief Wi," he said, "the people have heard your proposals as to
marriage. Many of us do not like them because they overthrow old
customs. Still, we acknowledge that something must be done lest the
people should come to an end, for those who have many wives bring up
no more children than those who have but one. Also, the unmarried turn
into murderers and thieves both of women and of other property.
Therefore, we accept the new law for a period of five summers, which
will give us time to see how it works. Also, we note your oath that
you will take no other wife while Aaka lives and that you call down
the curse of the gods upon yourself if you do so. We do not think that
you will keep that oath, for, being a chief, who can do what he likes,
why should you? But when you break it, we shall wait to see if the
curse falls upon you. As for the rest, that you call it down on the
people also, with that we will have nothing to do, nor do we believe
it. For why should the people suffer because you break an oath? If
there are gods, they will be avenged upon him who does the wrong, not
on others who are innocent. Therefore, speaking on behalf of the
people, I say that we accept your law, though for myself I add that I
am sure no good can ever come of the changing of ancient customs.
Indeed, I daresay that the curse will fall upon you and that soon you
will be dead."

Thus spoke Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-Omen, fulfilling his repute, and
retired with his companions.

By now it was growing dark, for all this debate had taken a long time;
moreover, many of the people had slipped away to try to make new
arrangements in view of this sudden and unexpected revolution in their
matrimonial law. Therefore, Wi adjourned the discussion of the next
rule of his new code, that which dealt with the exposure of unwanted
female infants, till the morrow, and the tribal conference broke up.

That night, he slept in the hut where he lived before he became chief,
and at the evening meal tried to open a discussion with Aaka on his
great new law. She listened for a minute, then remarked that she had
heard enough of it that afternoon, and if he wanted to talk more of
the matter instead of eating his food and discussing what was of real
importance, namely, how she should lay up her winter stores now that
he had become chief, he had better do so with his counsellor Pag.

This retort angered Wi, who said:

"Do you not understand that this law makes women taller by a head than
they have been, for now they are the equals of men, who give up much?"

"If so," answered Aaka, "you should first have asked us whether we
wished to grow taller. Had you done so, you would have found, I think,
that the most of us were content to remain the same size, seeing that
we do not desire more work and more children. Still, it matters
little, for your law is all nonsense, one made by fools, of whom I
should hold you the biggest, did I not know that you speak with the
mouth of Pag the woman-hater and the cutter down of old trees." (By
this she meant the destroyer of old customs.) "Man is man and woman is
woman, and what they have done from the beginning they will continue
to do. Nor will you change them by talking, Wi, although you think
yourself so clever. Yet, I am glad to learn that I shall have no pert
girls thrust into my household, or so you swore, calling down curses
on your own head in the presence of many witnesses, like a fool, for
when you break the oath you will find them troublesome to deal with."

Then, with a sigh, Wi grew silent. He had thought to please Aaka, whom
he loved and had suffered much to win, and who, he knew, loved him in
her fashion, although often she treated him so roughly. Still, he
noted that it was her purpose to take advantage of this law, so far as
she was concerned, and to keep him for herself alone. Why, then, he
wondered, did she belittle that of which she meant to take advantage,
a thing which no man would do? Then he shrugged his shoulders and
began to talk of the winter food and of the plans which he and Pag had
made whereby all would be assured of plenty.

That night, toward dawn, they were awakened by a great tumult. Women
shrieked and men shouted. The boy Foh, who slept on the other side of
the hut behind a skin curtain, crept out to see what was the matter,
thinking, perhaps, that the wolves had carried off someone. Presently
he returned and reported that there was fighting going on, but he did
not know what about.

Now Wi wished to rise, and look into the matter, but Aaka bade him lie
still, saying:

"Keep quiet. It is your new law at work, that is all."

When morning came, this proved to be true enough. Some wives of old
husbands had run away from them to young lovers, and some men who had
no wives had captured or tried to capture them by force, with the
result that there was much fighting, in which one old man had been
killed and others, male and female, injured.

Aaka laughed at Wi about this business, but he was so sad that he did
not try to answer her, only he said:

"You treat me hardly, Wife, of late, who am trying to do my best and
who love you, as I proved long ago when I fought a man who wished to
take you against your will and killed him, which brought much anger
and trouble on me. Then you thanked me and we came together and for
years lived happily. At last Henga, who hated me and had always
desired to take you into the cave, caught our daughter Fo-a and killed
her, and from that time you who loved Fo-a more than you do Foh, have
changed toward me, although that this happened was no fault of mine."

"It was your fault," she answered, "for you should have stayed to
watch Fo-a instead of going out to hunt to please yourself."

"I did not hunt to please myself, I hunted to get meat. Moreover, if
you had asked me, I would have left Pag to watch the girl."

"So the dwarf has been telling you that tale, has he? Then know the
truth. He did offer to stay with Fo-a, but I would not have that
hideous beast guarding my daughter."

"Pag has told me no tale, though it is true that, doubtless to shield
you, he reproached me for having taken him out hunting when there was
danger from Henga. Wife, you have done ill, for, if you hate Pag, yet
he loves me and mine, and had you allowed him to bide with Fo-a, she
would have been alive to-day. But let that matter be--the dead are
dead and we shall see them no more. Afterward, I prayed to the gods,
as you wished, and challenged Henga, and killed him, taking vengeance
on him, as you also wished, Pag helping me with his wisdom and by the
gift of the ax. And now I have driven away all the chief's women, who
were mine by right of custom, and have made a law that henceforth a
man shall have but one wife; and, that I might set an example as
chief, have called down curses on my head; and, that I might never
weaken in this matter, on the tribe, too, if I myself should break
that law. And yet you are still bitter against me. Have you then
ceased to love me?"

"Would you know the truth, Wi?" she answered, looking him in the eyes.
"Then I will tell you. I have not, I who never had a thought toward
another man. I love you as well as I did on the day when you killed
Rongi for my sake. But hearken--I love not Pag, who is your chosen
friend, and it is to Pag that you turn, not to me. Pag is your
counsellor--not I. It is true that since Fo-a was killed all water is
bitter to my taste and all meat is sprinkled with sand, and in place
of my heart a stone beats in my breast, so that I care for nothing and
am as ready to die as to live, which I thought I must do when the huge
cave dweller hurled you down. Yet I say this to you--drive out Pag, as
you can do, being chief, and, so far as I am able, I will be to you
what I was before, not only your wife, but your counsellor. Choose
then between me and Pag."

Now Wi bit his lip, as was his fashion when perplexed, and looked at
her sadly, saying:

"Women are strange; also they know not the thing that is just. Once I
saved Pag's life, and because of that he loves me; also, because he is
very wise, the wisest, I think, of all the people, I listen to his
words. Further, by his craft and counsel, and with the help of the
gift he gave me," and he looked at the ax hanging from his wrist, "I
slew Henga, who without these should now myself be dead. Also, Foh,
our son loves him, and he loves Foh, and with his help I have
fashioned new laws which shall make life good for all the tribe. Yet
you say to me, 'Drive out Pag, my friend and helper,' knowing that, if
he ceased to sit in my shadow, the women, who are his enemies, would
kill him, or he must wander away and live like a wild beast in the
woods. Wife, if I did this, I should be a treacherous dog, not a man,
and much less a chief whose duty it is to do justice to all. Why,
because you are jealous of him, do you ask such a thing of me?"

"For my own reasons, Wi, which are enough. Well, I ask, and you do not
grant, so go your road and I will go mine, though among the people it
need not be known that we have quarrelled. As for these new laws, I
tell you that they will bring you trouble and nothing else. You seek
to cut down an old tree and to plant a better in its place, but, if it
ever grows at all, you will be dead before it keeps a drop of rain
from off you. You are vain and foolish, and it is Pag who has made you
so."

Thus they parted, Wi going away full of sadness, for now he was sure
that nothing he could say or do would change Aaka's heart. Had he been
as were the others of the people, he would have rid himself of her and
taken another wife, leaving her to take another husband, if she chose.
But Wi was not like the rest of the tribe; he was one born out of his
time, a forerunner, one with imagination who could understand others
and see with their eyes. He understood that Aaka was jealous by
nature, jealous of everyone, not only of other women. That which she
had she wanted to keep for herself alone; she would rather that Wi
should lack guidance and help than that he should find these in the
dwarf Pag or in other men. She was even jealous of her son Foh,
because he loved him, his father, better than he did her.

Now, with Fo-a it had been otherwise, for, although he had loved her
so much, she had taken little note of her father and had clung close
to her mother. So, when Fo-a was killed, Aaka had lost everything;
moreover, she knew that she herself was to blame, for when Wi went
hunting, as he must, she would not suffer Pag to protect the child,
both because she hated him and because Fo-a liked Pag. Therefore,
through her own folly, she had lost her daughter, and knew that this
was so, and yet blamed, not herself, but Wi, because Pag was his
friend--which caused her to hate Pag so much that she would not suffer
him to guard Fo-a. From that moment, as she had said, water had become
bitter to her, and all meat full of sand; she was soured and different
from what she had been--indeed, another woman.

In the old days, with a kind of trembling joy she had thought how one
day Wi might become chief of the tribe; now she did not care whether
he were chief or not; even to have become the first woman in the tribe
gave her no pleasure. For the blow of the death of Fo-a, although she
knew it not, had fallen on her brain and disturbed her reason--the
more so because she was sure that she would bear no other children.
Yet, deep in her heart, she loved Wi better than she had ever done and
suffered more than she could have told because she feared lest some
other woman should appear to whom he might turn for the fellowship and
comfort she would no longer give.

Now, all these things Wi knew better than did Aaka herself, because by
nature he was a man with an understanding heart, although but a poor
savage who as yet had no pot in which to boil his food. Therefore, he
was very sad and yet determined to be patient, hoping that Aaka's mind
would right itself and that she would change her face toward him.

When Wi reached the cave, he found Pag waiting for him with food,
which Foh, who had gone before him at the break of day, served with
much stir and mystery. Eating of this food--it was a small salmon new
run from the sea--Wi noted, oddly enough, that it was cooked in a new
fashion and made savoury with salt, shellfish, and certain herbs.

"I have never tasted the like of this before," he said. "How is it
prepared?"

Then, with triumph, Foh pointed out to him a vessel hollowed from a
block of wood which stood by the fire, and showed him that in this
vessel water boiled.

"How is it done?" asked Wi. "If wood is placed upon fire, it burns."

Next Foh raked away some ashes, revealing in the heart of the fire a
number of red-hot stones.

"It is done thus, Father," he said; "for days I have been hollowing
out that block of black wood which comes from the swamp where it lay
buried, by burning it, and when it was charred, cutting it away with a
piece of that same bright stone of which your ax is made. Then, when
it was finished and washed, I filled it with water and dropped red-hot
stones into it till the water boiled. After this, I put in the cleaned
fish with the oysters and the herbs, and kept on dropping in red-hot
stones till the fish was cooked. That's how it is done, Father--and is
the fish nice?" and he laughed and clapped his hands.

"It is very nice, Son," said Wi, "and I would that I had more stomach
to eat it. But who thought of this plan, which is clever?"

"Oh! Pag thought of it, Father, but I did nearly all the work."

"Well, Son, take away the rest of the fish and eat it, and then go
wash out your pot lest it should stink. I tell you that you and Pag
have done more than you know and that soon you will be famous in the
tribe."

Then Foh departed rejoicing, and afterward even took the pot to his
mother to show her all, expecting that she would praise him. But in
this he was disappointed, for when she learned that Pag had hit upon
this plan, she said that, for her part, she was content with food
cooked as her forefathers had cooked it from the beginning, and that
she was sure that seethed flesh would make those who ate of it very
sick.

But it did not make them sick, and soon this new fashion spread and
the whole tribe might be seen burning hollows in blocks of wood,
cutting away the char that was left with their chipped flints, and
when the pots were finished, making water boil with the red-hot stones
and placing in it meat that was tough from having been stored in the
ice, or fish or eggs, or whatever they needed to cook. Thus, those who
were old and toothless could now eat again and grew fat; moreover, the
health of the tribe improved much, especially that of the children,
who ceased to suffer from dysentery brought on by the devouring of
lumps of flesh charred in the fire.




CHAPTER VIII



PAG TRAPS THE WOLVES


On the afternoon of this day of his quarrel with Aaka and of the
boiling of the salmon, Wi and his counsellors again met the tribe in
front of the cave to declare to them more of his new laws. This time,
however, not so many attended because, as a fruit of the first law, a
number of them were laid by hurt, while others were engaged
quarrelling over the women, or, if they belonged to the unmarried, in
building huts large enough to hold a wife.

At once, before the talk began, many complaints were laid as to the
violence worked upon the previous night, and demands made for
compensation for injuries received. Also, there were knotty points to
be decided as to the allotment of women when, for example, three or
four men wished to marry one girl, which of them was to take her.

This, Wi decided, must be settled by the girl choosing which of them
she would, an announcement that caused wonder and dismay, since never
before had a woman been allowed to make choice in such a matter, which
had been settled by her father, if he were known, or, more frequently,
by her mother, or sometimes, if there were none to protect her, by her
being dragged off by the hair of her head by the strongest of her
suitors after he had killed or beaten the others.

Soon, however, Moananga and Pag pointed out to him that, if he stopped
to hear and give judgment on all these causes, no more new laws would
be declared for many days. Therefore, he adjourned them till some
future time, and set out the second law, which declared that, in
future, no female child should be cast forth to be taken by the wolves
or to perish of cold, unless it were deformed. This announcement
caused much grumbling, because, said the grumblers, the child belonged
to the parents and especially to the mother, and they had a right to
do with their own as they wished.

Then an inspiration seized Wi and he uttered a great saying which
afterward was to be accepted by most of the world.

"The child comes from heaven and belongs to the gods, whose gift it is
and who will require account of it from those to whom it has been
lent," he said.

These words, so amazing to the people, who had never even dreamed
their like, were received in astonished silence. Urk the Aged, sitting
at Wi's side, muttered that he had never heard anything of the sort
from his grandfather, while Pag the Sceptic, behind him, asked:

"To what gods?"

Again an inspiration came to Wi, and he answered aloud:

"That we shall learn when we are dead, for then the hidden gods will
become visible."

Next, he went on hastily to declare the punishment for the breaking of
this law. It was terrible: namely, that the casters-forth should
themselves be cast forth to suffer the same fate and that none should
succour them.

"But if we had no food for the children?" cried a voice.

"Then, if that is proved to be so, I, the chief, will receive them and
care for them as though they were my own, or give them to others who
are barren."

"Surely soon we shall have a large family," Aaka remarked to Tana.

"Yes," said Tana. "Still, Wi has a great heart, and Wi is right."

At this point, as though by general consent, the meeting broke up, for
all felt that they could not swallow more than one law a day.

On the following afternoon, they came together again, but in still
fewer numbers, and Wi continued to give out laws, very excellent laws,
which did not interest his audience much, either because, as one of
them said, they were "full to the throat with wisdom," or for the
reason that, like other savages, they could not keep their attention
fixed for long on such matters.

The end of it was that no one came at all to listen, and that the laws
must be proclaimed throughout the tribe by Wini-wini with his horn.
For days he might be seen going from hut to hut blowing his horn and
shouting out the laws into the doorways, till at last the women grew
angry and set on the children to pelt him with eggshells and dried
cods' heads. Indeed, by the time he had finished, those in the first
huts, where he began, had quite forgotten of what he was talking.
Still, the laws, having been duly proclaimed without any refusal of
them, were held to be in force, nor was ignorance of them allowed to
be pleaded as excuse for their breaking, every man, woman, and child
being presumed to know the laws, even if they did not obey them.

Yet Wi discovered that it is much easier to make laws than to force
people to keep them, with the result that, soon, to his office of
lawgiver, he must add that of chief magistrate. Nearly every day was
he obliged to sit in front of the cave, or in it when the weather was
bad, to try cases and award punishments which were mostly inflicted by
certain sturdy fellows who wielded whips of whalebone. In this
fashion, a knowledge of the code and of what happened to those who
broke it grew by degrees. Thus, when Turi the Food-Hoarder managed to
secure more than his share of the spread of stockfish by arriving
earlier than the others, his hoard was raided and most of it
distributed among the poor, after which he was more careful in the
hiding of his ill-gotten gains.

Again, when Rahi, the rich trader, was proved to have supplied bad
bone-fish hooks, broken at the point or weak in the shank, in exchange
for skins which had been received by him in advance, Moananga went
with some men, and digging beneath the floor of his hut, found scores
of hooks wrapped up in hide, which they took and distributed amongst
those of the tripe who had none. Great was the outcry of Rahi, but in
this case few joined in it, for all loved to see who battened on the
poor in the hour of their necessity forced to disgorge some of his
gain.

Moreover, although he offended many who murdered and plotted against
him on the whole, Wi gained great credit for these good laws of his.
For now the people knew that he who dwelt in the cave was no murderer
or robber, as Henga and other chiefs had been, but a man who, taking
from them as little as might be, was honest, and although often, as
they thought, foolish, one who strove for the good of all. Therefore,
by degrees, they came to obey his laws--some more and some less--and,
although they abused him openly, in private they spoke well of him and
hoped that his rule would continue.

Yet at last trouble came. It chanced that a certain sour-natured woman
named Ejji bore a female child, and, not wishing to be troubled with
it, forced her husband to lay it on a stone at the edge of the forest
where the wolves came every night, that it might be devoured by them.
But this woman was watched by other women--set about the business by
Pag, who knew her heart and suspected her--as was her husband, who was
seized when he had laid the child upon the stone at nightfall even as
he told his wife Ejji what he had done and received her thanks.

Next morning, both of them were brought before Wi, who sat dealing out
justice at the mouth of the cave. He asked them what had become of the
girl child that was born to them within a moon. Ejji answered boldly
that it had died and its body had been cast away according to custom.
Thereon Wi made a sign and a foster mother was led from the cave
bearing the child in her arms, for thither it had been taken, as Wi
had promised should be done in such cases. The woman Ejji denied that
it was her child, but the husband, taking it in his arms, said
otherwise and, on being pressed, admitted that what he had done was
against his will and for the sake of peace in his home.

Then, when the finding of the child had been proved, Wi, after
reciting the law, ordered that these two, who were rich and not driven
by need, should be taken at sunset and tied to trees by that stone
upon which they had exposed the child, that the wolves might devour
them. At this stern sentence there was much trouble among the tribe,
most of whom had thrown out female infants in their time, and threats
were made against Wi.

Yet he would not change his judgment, and at nightfall, amidst
lamentations from their relatives and friends, the pair were taken out
and tied to the trees, whereon they were abandoned by all as evildoers
who had been unlucky enough to be found out.

During the night, growlings and cries were heard rising from the
direction of the trees, which told the tribe that Ejji and her husband
had been devoured by the wolves which always wandered there at a
distance from the huts where, unless they were very hungry, they dared
not come, because of the fires and the pitfalls. The death of these
two made the people very angry, so much so that many of them ran up to
the cave to revile Wi by whose order it had been brought about,
shouting out that the killing of men and women because they wished to
be rid of a useless brat was not to be borne. Greatly were they
astonished when, there in the mouth of the cave, they saw three dead
wolves, and standing behind them, bound hand and foot, Ejji and her
husband.

Then waddled forth Pag, holding a red spear in his hand, who said:

"Listen! This pair were justly condemned to die by the death that they
would have given to their child. Yet went forth Wi the chief, and
Moananga his brother, and I, Pag, with some dogs and waited in the
night close by but where they could not see us. Came the wolves, six
or eight of them, and flew at these two. Then we loosed the dogs and,
at risk to ourselves, attacked the brutes, killing three and wounding
others so that they ran away. Afterward we unbound Ejji and her
husband and carried them here, for they were so frightened that they
could scarcely walk. Now, by the command of Wi, I set them free to
tell all that, if another girl is cast forth, those who do the deed
will be left to die and none will come to save them."

So Ejji and her husband were loosed and crept away, covered with
shame; but for his dealings in this matter Wi gained great honour, as
Moananga and even Pag did also.

After this, no more girl children were thrown out to die or to be
devoured, but, on the other hand, several were brought to Wi because
their parents said they could not support them. These infants, as he
had promised he would do, he took into the cave, setting aside a part
of it near to the light and fires for their use, which, as the place
was large, could be done easily. Here the mothers must come to feed
them till they were old enough to be given into the charge of certain
women whom he chose to nurse them.

Now, all these changes caused much talk in the tribe, so that two
parties were formed, one of which was in favour of them and one
against them. However, as yet no one quarrelled with Wi, whom all knew
to be better and wiser than any chief told of in their tradition.
Moreover, the people had other things to think of, since now, in the
summer months, was the time when food must be stored for the long
winter.

At this business Wi and his Council made everyone work according to
his strength, even the children being used to collect the eggs of
seabirds and to spread out the cod and other fishes, after cleaning
them, to dry in the sun in a place, watched day and night, where the
wolves and foxes could not come to steal them. A tithe of all this
food went to the chief for his support and for that of those dependent
on him. Then half of what remained was stored against days of want,
either in the cave or, to keep it fresh, buried deep in ice at the
foot of the glaciers with great stones piled upon the top to make it
safe from the wolves and other beasts of prey.

Thus did Wi work from dawn to dark, with Pag to help him, directing
all things, till often he was so tired that he fell asleep before he
could lie down; he who hitherto had spent most of his days hunting in
the open air. At night he would sometimes rest in Aaka's hut, for she
kept her word and would not come into the cave while Pag was there.
Thus they lived in seeming agreement and talked together of small
matters of daily life, but no more of those over which they had
quarrelled.

The boy Foh, however, although he slept in his mother's hut at night
as he was commanded to do, lived more and more with his father because
there he was so welcome. For Aaka was jealous even of Foh, and this
the lad knew--or felt.



The winter came on very early indeed that year; there was little
autumn. Of a sudden, on one calm day when a sun without heat shone,
Wi, who was walking on the shore with Urk the Aged, Moananga, and Pag,
for he was so busy that thus he was forced to take counsel with them,
heard a sound like thunder and saw the eiderduck rise in thousands,
wheel round, and fly off toward the south.

"What frightened them?" he asked, and Urk answered:

"Nothing, I think, but when I was a boy, over seventy summers gone, I
remember that they did just the same thing at about this time, after
which came the harshest and longest winter that had been known, when
it was so cold that many of the people died. Still, it may happen that
the fowl were frightened by something, such as a shaking of the earth
when the ice stirs farther north at the end of summer. If so, they
will return, but if not, we shall see them no more till next spring."

The duck did not return, although they left so hurriedly that hundreds
of flappers which could scarcely fly remained behind and were hunted
down by the children of the tribe and stored in the ice for food. Also
the breeding seals that came up from the south and other creatures
went away with their young, as did most of the fish.

Next night there was a sharp frost, warned by which Wi set the tribe
to drag in firewood from the edge of the forest, where firs blown down
by storms lay in plenty. This was a slow and toilsome task, because
they had no saws with which to cut up the trees or rid them of the
branches, and could only hack them to pieces slowly with flint axes.
From long experience, they counted on a month of open weather for this
wood harvest before the snow began to fall, burying the dead trees so
that they could not come at them, for this fuel-dragging was their
last task ere winter set in.

That year, however, snow fell on the sixth day, although not thickly,
and the heavy sky showed that there was more to come. Noting this, Wi
set the whole tribe to work and, neglecting everything else, went out
with them to make sure that all did their share. Thus it came about
that, in fourteen more days, they had piled up a greater store of wood
than Urk had ever seen in all his life, and with it much moss for the
camp wicks and many heaps of seaweed left by the high tides, which, if
kept dry under earth, burned even better than did the wood.

The people grumbled at this incessant toil, carried on in sleet or
lightly falling snow. But Wi would not listen to their complaints, for
he was frightened of he knew not what, and made them work through all
the hours of the daylight, and even by that of the moon. Well was it
that he did so, for scarcely were the last trunks dragged home, the
boughs brought in and piled up by the boys and girls, and all the
heaps of seaweed earthed up, when a great snow began to fall which
continued for many days, burying the land several feet deep, so that
it would have been impossible to come to the fallen trees or to
collect the moss and seaweed. Then, after the snow, came frosts, great
frosts that continued for months.

Never had such a winter been known as that which began with this
snowfall, especially as the daylight seemed to be shorter than in the
past, though this they held was because of the continual snow clouds.
Before it was done, indeed, even the greatest grumbler in the tribe
blessed Wi, who had laid up such vast stores of food and fuel, without
which they must have perished. As it was, many who were old or weakly
died, as did some of the children; and because it was impossible to
bury them in the frozen earth, they were taken away and covered with
snow, whence presently the wolves dug them up.

As the months went on, these wolves became very terrible, for, being
unable to find food, they ravened boldly round the village, and even
rushed into the huts at night, dragging out some of their inmates,
while in the daytime they lay in wait to catch children. Then Wi
caused steep snow banks to be made as a protection, and at certain
places kept fires burning, doing all he could to scare the beasts.
Great white bears from the sea-borne ice appeared also, roaming round
and terrifying them, though these creatures seemed to be afraid of man
and did not kill any people. Drawn by its smell, however, they dug up
some of the buried stores of food and devoured them, which was a great
loss to the tribe.

At length the attacks of these wolves and other wild beasts grew so
fierce and constant that Wi, after consulting with Moananga and Pag,
determined that war must be waged against them before more people were
devoured. Now in the ice-topped hills behind the beach where the huts
stood was a certain high-cliffed hole from which there was no escape
and which could only be entered by a narrow gorge. This was the plan
of Wi, the cunning hunter--to drive all the wolves into that great
rock-surrounded hole, and to build a wall across its mouth over which
they could not climb and thus to be rid of them. First, however, he
must accustom them to enter that place, lest they should break back.
This he proposed to do in the following fashion.

At the beginning of the winter, a dying whale of which the tongue was
torn out by thresher sharks, had drifted ashore, or rather into
shallow water, and the tribe was set to work to cut it up when it was
dead for the sake of its blubber and meat. This they did, piling up
great lumps of flesh and blubber upon certain rocks that rose out of
the water, which they purposed to drag away after the ice had formed.
Whilst they were still engaged upon this task, there came terrible
snowstorms and gales, so that they must abandon it, and after these a
thaw, with more gales, had prevented them from coming to the rocks.

When at last the weather abated, they went there to find that the
whale's flesh had become rotten during the thaw so that it was useless
and must be left where it lay. Now, when everything was frozen, Wi
determined to fetch this flesh, or as much of it as they could carry,
and place it in the great rock hollow, whither the wolves would
certainly be drawn by its smell. Having planned all this, he called
the chief men of the tribe together and told them what must be done.

They listened very doubtfully, especially a party of them led by
Pitokiti the Unlucky and Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-Omen, who said that
wolves attacked men, but never had they heard such a thing as that men
should attack the host of the wolves in the dead of winter when these
were fierce and terrible.

"Listen," said Wi. "Will you rather kill the wolves, or be killed by
them with your women and children? For know that it has come to this,
the brutes being mad with hunger."

Then they wrangled for a long time, so that the matter could not be
settled that day and must be put off till the morrow.

As it chanced, that very night, the wolves made a great attack upon
the huts, a hundred or more of them, scrambling over the snow banks
and rushing past the fires, so that before they could be driven off, a
woman and two children were torn to pieces, while others were bitten.
After this, the elders accepted the plan of Wi because they could see
no other.

So, first of all, the strongest men were sent to the mouth of the
gorge, where they dragged together loose stones of which there were
hundreds lying about though many of these they could not move because
the frost held them fast. These stones they built into a wall with a
broad bottom and twice the height of a man, filling in the cracks with
snow, which soon froze solid, but leaving a gap in the middle through
which the wolves might enter, also other piled-up stones wherewith it
could be closed very swiftly. Then they went down to the seashore and,
crossing the ice or, if it was broken, wading through the shallow
water, came to those rocks on which the whale's flesh was stored, and
scraped the deep snow off the heaps.

Now, however, they found themselves beaten, for, notwithstanding the
covering snow, the frost had frozen the outer lumps of flesh and
blubber so hard that they could not move them; therefore, their labour
lost, they returned home, Whaka announcing loudly that he knew all the
while that this would be so.

That night Wi and Pag talked long and earnestly, but, though they were
wise, they could find no plan to overcome this trouble. Wi thought of
lighting fires upon the heaps to thaw them, but Pag pointed out that,
if they did this, the blubber would catch fire and all be burned. So
at last they ceased talking and Wi went to Aaka, who now had changed
her mind and slept in the cave because of the cold and the wolves, and
asked her counsel.

"So when Pag fails you, you come to me for wisdom," she said. "Well, I
have none to give. Seek it of your gods, for they alone can help you."

As it came about, the gods, or chance, did help, and in a strange
fashion. In the darkness toward dawn a great noise was heard out in
the sea, grunts and growlings, and when at last light came, Wi saw a
whole troop of great white bears crawling away through the snow mists.
When they had all gone, calling Pag and some others, he made his way
over the ice to the rocks where the whale's flesh was piled up, and
found that with their sharp claws and giant strength the bears,
scenting food now that the snow had been removed, had torn the heaps
open and scattered them so that the centres, which were not frozen so
hard because of the protection of the snow, lay exposed. Much they had
eaten, of course, but more remained.

Then Wi said to Pag:

"I thought that we must leave the pit unbaited and try to drive the
wolves into it as best we could, but it is not so, for the gods have
been good to us."

"Yes," said Pag, "the bears have been very good to us, and for aught I
know the gods may be bears, or the bears gods."

Then he sent to summon all the men of the tribe before the exposed
flesh turned to solid ice. They came--scores of them, many with hide
ropes which they made fast to great lumps of meat, and others with
rough reed-woven baskets. Setting to work, before night fell they had
carried tons of the flesh into the rock pit, which was round and may
have measured a hundred paces from side to side, where they left it to
freeze so that the wolves could not drag it away, or eat it easily.

That night, watching by the moonlight, they saw and heard many wolves
gathered at the mouth of the pit and walking to and fro, filled with
doubt and fear of raps. At last some entered--though only a very few
of them--and were suffered to go away unhindered when they had gorged
themselves. Next night more entered, and next night more, though now
they could make small play with the flesh because the frost had turned
it into stone. On the fourth day, Wi called up the tribe and, before
sunset, sent all the younger man, led by Moananga, into the woods,
making a great half-circle round those places where they knew the
wolves had their lairs, ordering them to hide there, several together,
so that they might not be attacked, and not to stir till they saw a
fire burn upon a certain rock. Then, with shoutings, they were to
advance, driving all the wolves before them toward the mouth of the
gorge.

So the men went, for now they knew that either they must conquer the
wolves or the wolves would conquer them.

Then it was that Pag behaved very strangely, for after these man had
started, he said:

"This plan is of no use, Wi, for when the wolves hear the shoutings
they will not run toward the gorge, but will break and scatter by ones
and twos, this way and that, slipping through the drivers or round the
ends of the line before it closes."

"If you think that, why did you not say so before?" asked Wi angrily.

"For my own reasons. Hearken, Wi. All the women call me a wolf-man, do
they not, one who changes into a wolf and hunts with the wolves. Well,
that is a lie, and yet there is truth mixed up with this lie. You know
that, soon after I was born, my mother cast, or caused me to be cast,
out into the forest where she was sure the wolves would eat me, but
afterward my father found me and brought me back. What you do not know
is that this was ten days from the time when I was cast out. Now, how
did I live during those days? I cannot tell you who have no memory,
but I hold that some wolf suckled me, since otherwise I must have
died."

"I have heard of such things," said Wi doubtfully, "but always set
them down as winter-fire tales. But why do you think this one to be
true? Perchance your father found you the day that you were cast out."

"I think it to be true because, in after time, when she was dying, my
mother whispered this tale into my ears. She said my father, who
himself was killed by wolves not long afterward, told her secretly--
for he dared not speak of the matter openly--that when he came upon me
in the forest whither he had gone to seek my bones and, if any of them
could be found, bury them, he discovered me in such a nest as wolves
make when they bear their young, and saw a great gray wolf standing
over me with her teat in my mouth, one that had lost her cubs, mayhap.
She growled at him but ran away, and seizing me, he also ran and bore
me home. This my mother swore to me."

"A dying woman's fancy," said Wi.

"I think not," answered Pag, "and for this reason. When for the second
time I was driven out by the women, or rather by Henga's father, whom
they persuaded that I was a bewitcher and unlucky, having nowhere else
to go and all hands being against me, I wandered into the woods that
there the wolves might kill me and make an end. The day began to die,
and presently wolves gathered round me, for I saw them moving between
the tree trunks, waiting till night fell to spring upon me. I watched
them idly, caring nothing, since I had come there to be their meat.
They drew near when suddenly a great gray she-wolf ran up as though to
seize me, then stopped and sniffed at me.

"Thrice she smelt, then licked me with her tongue, and leaping round,
rushed at those other wolves, snarling and open-jawed, her fur
starting up from her back. The dog-wolves ran away from her, but two
of the she-wolves stood, being hungry. With these she fought, tearing
the throat out of one and mauling the other so that it limped off
howling. Then she, too, went away, leaving me amazed till I remembered
my mother's story, after which I wondered no more, being sure that
this old wolf was she that had suckled me and knew me again."

"Did you see more of her, Pag?"

"Aye. Twice she returned, once after five days, and once after six
more days, and each time she brought me meat and laid it at my feet.
It was filthy carrion torn from some dead deer that she had dug up
from beneath the snow, but doubtless the best she could find.
Moreover, although she was thin with hunger and this was her portion,
still she brought it to me."

"And did you eat it?" asked Wi, astonished.

"Nay, why should I who had crept into that hole to die? Moreover, my
stomach turned at the sight of it. Then you found me and carried me
into your hut, and I have met that foster mother of mine no more. Yet
she still lives, for more than once I have seen her; yes, this very
winter I have seen her who now is the leader of all the wolf people."

"A strange story," said Wi, staring at him. "Surely if you have not
dreamed it, you who slay many of them should be more tender toward
wolves."

"Not so, for did they not kill my father, and would they not have
killed me? Yet to this wolf I am tender, as I shall show you, for in
payment of what I would do, I ask her life."

"And what would you do?" asked Wi.

"This. Now, before the fire is lighted, I will go down into the forest
and find that wolf, for she will know me again and come to me. Then,
when the shouting begins and the brutes grow frightened, she will
follow me and the all the other wolves will follow her, and I shall
lead them thither into the trap. Only her I will save from the trap,
for that is my bargain."

"You are mad," said Wi.

"If I come back no more, then call me mad, or if my plan fail. But if
I live and it succeeds, then call me wise," answered Pag with a low
guttural laugh. "There is yet an hour before the lighting of the fire
when the edge of the moon covers yonder star. Give me that hour and
you shall learn."

Then, without waiting for more words, Pag slipped down the rock on
which they were standing and vanished into the gloom.

"Without doubt he is mad," said Wi to himself, "and without doubt this
is the end of our fellowship."

Presently, waiting there in the cold frost and watching his breath
steam upon the still air, Wi's mind went back to this matter of Pag.
Now that he came to think of it, it was very strange that all the
people believed Pag to be a companion of wolves. What was accepted by
all, he had noted, was generally true. If one person smelt a fox, he
might be mistaken, but if everybody smelt it, surely there was a fox.
It was certain also that Pag never had any fear of wolves and would go
down into the forest when they were howling all around as quietly as
another would walk into his hut and take no harm; whereas from bears
or other wild beasts he would run like the rest.

Further, now Wi remembered having heard the tale told in his youth
that, when Pag was cast out by his mother shortly after birth, for
some reason that he forgot, fifteen days went by before his father
went to seek his bones to bury them. Yet he found him living and
strong, because of which--so ran the tale--the people held Pag to be
not human but a monster sprung from one of those evil spirits that
might be heard howling round the huts at the dead of night.

So perhaps what Pag said was true. Perhaps his father had found him in
a wolf's den and seen her suckling him. Perhaps, too, since these
beasts were known to live many years, especially if the spirit of a
dead man were in them, as Urk and other aged ones declared happened
from time to time both in the case of wolves and of other creatures,
such as the great toothed tiger, food had been brought to him by that
same wolf when he was cast out for the second time.

Well, he would learn presently; meanwhile, the moment drew near when
he must light the signal fire.

A while later, Wi looked at the moon and saw that the star was
vanishing in the light of its edge. Then he whispered to Foh who now
had come to him and crouched at his side, watching all things eagerly
as a boy does. Foh nodded and slipped away, to return presently with a
smouldering brand that he had brought from a little fire which was
burning out of sight farther down the hillside.

Wi took it and went to the pile of dried wood that had been prepared
upon the rock, where he blew it to a flame and set it among some
powdered seaweed at the base of the pile. The seaweed caught readily,
as this sort does when dry, giving out a blue light, and presently the
pile was aflame. Then Wi bade Foh go home to the cave, which he
pretended to do but did not, for, desiring above all things to see
this great wolf hunt, he hid himself away behind a rock.

Thinking that Foh had departed, Wi crept down to where the old men, to
the number of fifty or more under the command of Hotoa the Slow-
speeched, lay hidden among the stones, down wind so that the wolves
might not smell them, and near to the mouth of the gully that, save
for a gap in the middle, was built up with a wall of snow-covered
boulders, as has been told. These men he bade be ready, and when the
wolves had gone through the gap and they heard his command, but not
before, to rush forward, each of them carrying a large stone, and fill
up the gap so that the wolves could not come out again. Meanwhile,
they must keep stirring the stones lest the frost should fasten them
to the ground.

These men, many of whom were shivering with cold or fear, or both,
listened dully. Whaka said that his heart told him that no good would
come of this business; Hou the Unstable asked if they could not change
their plan and go home; N'gae the Magician announced that he had
sought an omen from the Ice-gods, whose priest he was, and had dreamed
a very evil dream in which he had seen Pitokiti sleeping in the belly
of a wolf, signifying, no doubt, that they were all about to be killed
and eaten, news at which Pitokiti moaned and wrung his hands. Urk the
Aged shook his head and declared that no such plan as this had ever
been made from the beginning; at least, his grandfather had never told
him of it, and what had not been done before could not be done now.
Only Hotoa, a man of good heart, though stupid, answered at length
that the stones were ready and that, for his part, he would build them
up if and when the wolves were in the pit, even if he had to do so
alone.

Now Wi grew angry.

"Hearken!" he said. "The moon is very clear and I can see all. If one
man runs, be sure I shall note him and shall dash out his brains now
or later. Yes, the first man who runs shall die," and he lifted his ax
and looked at Hou and Whaka.

After this, all grew silent, for they knew that what Wi said, that he
would do.

Presently the wolves began to appear, looking like shadows on the
snow, and by twos or threes loped past with lolling tongues and
vanished through the cleft into the pit beyond.

"Stir not," whispered Wi. "These are not driven, they come to eat the
whale's flesh as they have done before."

This was true enough, for soon, from within the pit, the watchers
heard the sound of growls and of the teeth of the starved beasts
grating on the frozen flesh.

Then, from far away arose the sound of shouts, and they knew that the
drivers had seen the fire on the high rock and were at their work. A
long time went by. Then--oh! then those watchers saw a terrible sight,
for behold! the snow slope beneath them grew black with wolves, more
wolves than they had ever counted--hundreds of them there seemed to
be, all coming on in silence, slowly, doggedly, like a marshalled
host. And lo! in front of them trotted a huge, gaunt, gray she-wolf,
and either running at her side, holding to her hair, or mounted on her
back, which they could not be sure because of the shadows, was Pag the
Dwarf, Pag the Wolf-man!

The watchers gasped with fear, and some of them hid their eyes with
their hands, for they were terrified. Even Wi gasped, for now he knew
that Pag had spoken truth and that wolf's milk ran in his blood as the
wolf's craftiness lived in his brain.

Into the shadow of the cleft passed the great, gray mother wolf; Wi
could see her glowing eyes and her worn yellow fangs as she trotted
beneath him, and with her went Pag. Lo! they entered the gap in the
stone snow-covered wall, and as they entered, the she-wolf raised her
head and howled aloud, whereon all the multitude which followed her
that for a moment had seemed to hesitate raised their heads and howled
also, making such a sound as the people had never heard, so terrible a
sound that some of them fell upon the earth, swooning. For this was
the cry of the mother wolf to the pack, the call that they must obey.
Then the multitude pressed on after her, scrambling upon each other's
backs to be first into the pit.

All were in--not one of the hundreds remained outside, and the time
had come to close the breach. Wi opened his lips to utter the command,
then hesitated, for Pag was there in the pit, and when the wolves
found that they were trapped, certainly they would tear him to pieces
and the mother wolf also which had led them to their death. He must
speak, and yet Pag was in the pit! How could he command the death of
Pag? Oh! Pag was but one man and the people were many, and if once
those wolves broke out again, mad with rage, none would be left
living.

"To the wall!" he said hoarsely, and himself lifting a large stone,
sprang forward.

Then it was that back through the cleft came the great mother wolf and
with her Pag, unharmed. He bent down, he whispered into the ear of the
she-wolf, and it seemed to them, the watchers, that she listened and
licked his face. Then, suddenly, like an arrow, she sped away.

In her path was Pitokiti the Unlucky, who turned to fly. With a growl
she nipped him, tearing a great hole in his side, fled on--and was no
more seen.

"Build up!" cried Wi. "Build up!"

"Aye, build you up," echoed Pag, "and swiftly, if you would see the
sun. I go, my work is finished," and he shambled through them who even
then shrank away from him.

Wi rushed to the cleft and flung down his stone, as did others. A
wolf's head appeared above the rising pile; he brained it with his ax
so that it fell backward dead, and there was a sound of its being torn
to pieces and devoured by those within. This gave them a breath of
time. The stones rose higher, but now at them came all the weight of
the wolves. Some were killed or driven back, for even the most timid
fought desperately with their stone spears, clubs, and axes, knowing
that if once the imprisoned pack climbed or broke through the wall, it
would have the mastery of them. So some built and others fought, while
yet others brought baskets filled with damp grit or snow taken from
deep holes, which they poured on to the stones where immediately it
ran down into the cracks and froze, turning them to a fortress wall.

Yet some of the wolves got over by climbing on to each other's backs
and leaping thence to the crest of the wall before it reached its full
height. The most of these fled away to be the parents of other packs
in years to come, but certain of the fiercest fought with the men
beyond and mangled them so that one old fellow died of his wounds.

In all this noise and confusion, suddenly Wi heard a cry for help
which caused him to turn round, for he thought he knew the voice. He
looked, and by the bright moonlight shining on the snow, saw Foh his
son fighting a great wolf. With a snarl, the brute sprang. Foh bent
himself and received the weight of it upon the point of his flint-
headed spear. Down went the lad with the wolf on top of him. Wi
bounded forward, thinking to find him with his throat torn out. He
reached the place too late, for both Foh and the wolf lay still.
Putting out his strength, he dragged the brute away. Beneath it lay
Foh covered with blood. Thinking him dead, in an agony Wi lifted him,
for he loved this boy better than anyone on the earth. Then, suddenly,
Foh slipped from his arms, stood upon his feet, and gasped as his
breath returned to him:

"See! Father, I killed the beast. My spear broke--but see! the point
of it sticks out of his back. His teeth were on my throat when all at
once his mouth opened and he died."

"Get you home," said Wi roughly, but in his heart he thanked the Ice-
gods because his only son had been saved alive.

Then he rushed back to the wall, nor did he leave it until it had been
built so high that it could not be leapt over by any wolf in the
world. Nor could it be scaled, for the topmost stones were set so that
they curved toward the great pit within. There then Wi waited till the
damp sand and the snow froze hard, and he knew that, before the spring
came, nothing could stir them.

At length the work was done and in the east broke the dawn of the
short winter day. Then Wi climbed to the top of the wall and looked
into the pit beyond. It was still full of darkness, for the moon had
sunk behind the hills, but in the darkness he could see hundreds of
fierce eyes moving while the mountains echoed with the howlings of the
imprisoned beasts.



So they howled for days, the stronger devouring those that grew weak,
till at length there was silence in that darksome place, for all were
dead.




CHAPTER IX



WI MEETS THE TIGER


Two days had gone by, for the most of which time Wi had slept. Indeed,
after this great battle with the wolves, he was weary almost to death,
not with the work or the fighting, but through amazement at the sight
of Pag keeping awful fellowship with the great she-wolf, and agony of
mind because of what he had suffered when he thought that the throat
of Foh was torn out; also when he believed that the whole host of the
wood-dwellers would break through or over the wall and tear him and
his companions to pieces.

When at times he woke up from that sleep, Aaka was kind to him, more
so than she had been since Henga had murdered Fo-a. Also, she was
proud of his deeds and fame that were in every mouth, and now that he
had risen from his bed she brought him food and spoke to him softly,
which pleased Wi, who loved Aaka, the wife of his youth, although of
late her face seemed to have turned away from him. Now, while he ate,
Aaka giving him his food piece by piece as was the fashion of wives
among the tribe, Moananga joined them and began to talk in his light
manner of that night of fear.

"All the good of it was with you, Brother," he said, "for we tramped
through the forest cutting our feet and breaking our skins against
trunks of trees and boughs half buried in the snow, for no purpose at
all."

"Did you not see any wolves?" asked Wi.

"Not one though we heard them howling in the distance. It seems that
they had all gone on before, led by a certain friend of ours who can
charm wolves, if what I hear is true," and he shrugged his shoulders.
"Yet we saw something else."

"What was that?" asked Wi.

"We saw the great striped beast of which we have learned from our
fathers; the tiger with teeth like spearheads, a like beast to that
whose skin, or what remains of it, is your cloak to-day, which has
been worn by the chief of the tribe since the beginning."

Now this was true, since for generations those who dwelt in the cave,
one after another, wore that cloak, though none knew how it had come
to the first of them. Moreover, although tradition told of this great
tiger beast, which was once the terror of the tribe, hitherto none
living had seen it, so that, although they still talked of it, men
thought that its race was dead or had left their land.

"What did it do?" said Wi, much stirred, as a hunter would be.

"It appeared from between the trees, and walking forward boldly, leapt
onto a rock and stood there staring at us and lashing its tail, a
mighty brute, tall as a deer and longer. We shouted, thinking to scare
it away, but it took no heed, only stood and purred like a wildcat of
the woods, watching us with its glowing eyes. Now, in front of it,
with others, was the man named Finn, he whom Henga hated and swore to
kill so that he must hide himself in the woods whence he only came out
again after you had slain Henga. Suddenly, the tiger ceased purring
and fixed his eyes on Finn. Finn saw it and turned to run. Then the
tiger leapt, such a leap as has never been seen. Right over the heads
of the others he leapt, landing onto the back of Finn, who fell down.
Next instant the tiger had him in his jaws and bounded away with him,
as the wildcat bounds with a bird which it has seized. That was the
last we saw of it and of Finn."

"Strange that the tiger should have chosen him who was hated of Henga
the Tiger-man," said Wi.

"Yes, Wi, so strange that all the people hold that the spirit of Henga
has entered into this tiger."

Now, Wi did not laugh at this saying, because it was the belief of his
folk that the ghost of an evil man often passed into the shape of some
terrible beast that could not be killed, and in that form took
vengeance upon those whom that man had hated in life, or on his
children. Therefore he only said,

"If it be so, it seems that I must guard myself, seeing that, if Henga
hated Finn, he hated me ten times more, and with good reason, as
perhaps he knows to-day. Well, I slew Henga and I swear that I will
slay this tiger also, if he troubles us more, though whence the beast
came I cannot guess."

At this moment Pag appeared, whereon Aaka, who had been listening to
the tale of the death of Finn, turned and went away, saying over her
shoulder:

"Here comes one who perchance can show you how to lead the tiger into
a trap. For what is a tiger but a big striped wolf?"

Others, too, shrank to one side as Pag advanced, because, although
they were grateful to him for what he had done, they who had always
feared Pag, now feared him ten times more. Yes, even Moananga shrank
and made a place for him.

"Fear not," said Pag mockingly. "The gray wolf mother has fled afar
and no more of her kin follow after me and her. Indeed, I come from
watching them. They fight and devour each other there in the pit and
ere long, I think, all will be dead, for that wall they cannot climb
or tunnel through."

"Tell us, Pag," said Moananga boldly, after his fashion, "what are
you, a man, or a wolf fashioned to the shape of a dwarf?"

"You knew my father and my mother, Moananga, and therefore should be
able to answer your own questions. Yet in all men there is something
of the wolf and, for certain reasons that Wi has heard, in me perhaps
more than in most."

"So the people think, Pag."

"Do they, Moananga? If so, tell them from me that I am not a wolf that
can be caught in any trap; also that, if they will leave me alone, I
will leave them alone. But if they will not, then they may feel my
fangs."

"How did you lead the wolves, Pag?"

"Why should you ask secrets, Moananga? Yet if you would know, I will
tell you that you may tell it to others. The mother of them all is my
friend. I went into the wood and called and she came to me. Then I
bade her follow me as a dog does. She followed and the rest followed
her--that is all."

Moananga looked at Pag doubtfully and answered:

"I hold that there is more behind, Pag."

"Aye, Moananga, there is always more behind everything, for those who
can find it. We cannot see far and know very little, Moananga--not
even what we were before we were born, or what we shall be after we
are dead."

Now there was something so grim about Pag's talk that, although he was
curious, Moananga asked him no more questions; only he said:

"If there be something of a wolf in man, there may be something of man
in a tiger," and he repeated to him that tale which he had told to Wi.

Pag listened eagerly and answered:

"When one cloud passes, another comes; the wolves have gone, the tiger
follows. Whether Henga dwells in this beast I do not know. But if so,
the sooner it is slain the better," and he glanced at Wi and at Foh,
who now was standing by his father, his arm thrown about him. Then he
went to fetch his food, for he was hungry.

Now, from that day forward, the tiger became as great an ill to the
tribe as the wolves had been, although it was but one and these had
been many. It lurked around the village in the dark of night, and when
light came and people crept out of their huts, it rushed in, seizing
now one and now another, and bounding away with its prey in its mouth.
No fence could keep it out, nor would it tread on any pitfall, while
so swift were its movements that none could hit it with a spear. It
was noted, moreover, that all those who were taken had been men whom
Henga hated, or their children, or perchance women who had been his
and now were married to others. Therefore, the people grew sure that
in this tiger dwelt the spirit of Henga. Also, N'gae the Priest and
Taren his wife, having taken counsel with the Ice-gods, returned from
the glacier and declared that this was so.

Pondering these things, Wi was much afraid, though more for Foh than
for himself. Certainly, soon or late, the lad would be seized, or
perchance his own turn would come first. The people lived in terror
also, and now none of them would come out of his hut till it was full
day, much less walk beyond the village unless there were many of them
together.

Very slowly and very late, at length the spring came; the snows melted
and the horned deer appeared in the woods. Now Wi hoped the huge tiger
with the flashing teeth would cease from killing men and fill himself
with venison, or perhaps go away altogether whence he came, wherever
that might be, to seek a mate there. Yet the tiger did none of these
things. Almost it seemed that it was the last of its race who could
not mate because none was left living on the earth. At least, it
stayed in the great woods that bordered the beach, living now in one
place and now in another; moreover, it continued to find victims, for
between the spring and the first month of summer three of the tribe
were dragged away, so that the end of it was that they dared not go
out to seek food, never being sure but that the striped beast might
spring upon them from some lair where it lay hid, for it seemed to
watch all their movements and to know where they would come.

The end of it was that the people gathered at the meeting-place and
sent Wini-wini the Shudderer to pray Wi to speak with them. He came
accompanied by Pag. Then, by the mouth of Urk the Aged, they addressed
him, saying:

"This tiger with the great teeth, whom we believe to be Henga in the
shape of a beast, kills us. We demand that you who slew Henga and
turned him into a tiger, you who are a mighty hunter and our chief by
right of conquest, should slay the tiger as you slew Henga."

"And if I cannot or will not, what then?" asked Wi.

"Then, if we are strong enough, we will kill you and Pag and choose
another chief," they replied through Wini-wini the Mouth. "Or if we
cannot, at least we will obey you and your laws no more, but will go
away from this place where we have lived since the beginning and seek
another home far from the tiger."

"Mayhap the tiger will go with you," said Pag darkly, a grin upon his
ugly face, which saying did not please them, for they had not thought
of such a thing. Before any of them could answer, however, Wi spoke in
a slow, sad voice.

"It seems that among you I have many enemies," he said, "nor do I
wonder at this, for in sundry ways the past winter has been most evil,
with fiercer cold and longer snows than were ever known, whence have
come much death and sickness. Also a number of us have been killed,
first by the wolves, which are now destroyed, and afterward by this
tiger; nor, although we have made offerings, do the gods who live in
the ice yonder help us at all. Now you tell me that I must kill the
tiger or that you will kill me if you can, which by the ancient custom
you have a right to do, and find another chief. Or, if you cannot,
that you will leave me and go hence to seek a new home far from where
you were born.

"Hearken, people of the tribe. I say to you it is not needful that you
should wander away perhaps to find worse dangers than those which you
have left. Soon I go out to seek this tiger and match myself against
it, as I did against Henga, whose spirit you believe lives in its
skin. Perhaps I shall kill it, or more probably it will kill me, in
which case, you must fight with the beast as best you can, or if it
should please you better, fly away. In any case, it is not needful
that you should try to kill me, for learn that I am weary of this
chieftainship. A while ago I rid you of a tyrant who murdered many of
you, as he did my own daughter, and since then, labouring day and
night, I have worked for the good of all and done my best to serve
you. Now, as you hold that I have failed and I am of the same mind,
for otherwise you would love me better, it is my wish to lay down my
chieftainship, or if the custom will not allow of this, to stand here
unarmed while he whom you may choose to succeed me puts an end to my
life with his club and spear.

"Therefore, choose the man that I may submit myself to you. Yet if you
will take my last counsel as your chief, when you have done so,
command him to spare me a little while that I may go forth to kill the
tiger if I can. Then, having done this, if perchance it does not kill
me, I will return and you can deal with me as you will, either by
suffering me to live on as one of you, such as I was before I became
your chief, or by putting an end to me."

When the people heard these words and understood their nobleness, they
were ashamed. Also they were confused, for they knew not whom to
choose as chief, if indeed there was anyone who would take that
office. Moreover, Pag did not comfort them by announcing loudly that
this new chief would find one to challenge him, and that within an
hour, namely, Pag himself. Indeed, at this saying, they looked aside,
or rather those among them who had cast eyes of longing on the cave
did so, for, although Pag was a dwarf, his strength was terrible.
Moreover, he was a wolf-man who could doubtless summon powers to help
him from the earth or air, perhaps the gray wolf mother, or ghosts
that howl in the night. Still, one voice did call out the name of
Moananga, whereon he answered:

"Not so, fool. I stand with my brother Wi and tell you that, if you
thrust him out, it will be because the gods have made you mad, for
where can you find one who is braver or wiser and more honest? Why do
you not go up yourselves against the tiger and kill it? Is it
perchance that you are afraid?"

None answered. For a while they murmured together confusedly, and
then, as though with one voice, cried out:

"Wi is our chief. We will have no other chief but Wi."

So that trouble ended.



That night Wi and Pag took counsel together as to how they might make
an end of the tiger. Earnestly they debated, but for a long while
could see no light. Everything had been tried. The brute would not
walk over their most cunning pitfalls; it would not eat the meat
poisoned with the juices of a certain fish that, when rotten, was
deadly; it feared no fires, and could not be driven away. Twice men in
numbers had gone out to attack it, but once it hid itself, and the
next time it charged them, smote down a man with its great paw, and
vanished; after which they would go no more.

"You and I must fight it alone," said Wi, but Pag shook his head.

"Our strength is not enough," he answered. "Before you could smite a
blow with your ax, it would have killed us both. Or perchance if the
ghost of Henga dwells in it, as all the people think, it would not
face that ax again, but would hide itself."

Then he walked to the mouth of the cave and idly enough stared up at
that broken tree where, as the moonlight showed, the blackened head of
Henga still was fixed, its long locks waving in the wind. He returned
and said:

"That tiger must be very lonely, having none of its kind with which to
talk or mate. Will you lend me your chief's cloak, Wi? If it is lost I
will promise you a better."

"What for?" asked Wi.

"That I will tell you afterward. Will you lend me the cloak and the
necklace of tiger claws?"

"Take them if you wish," said Wi wearily, knowing that it was useless
to dig for secrets in the dark heart of Pag. "Take them and the
chieftainship also, if it pleases you, for of all these I have had
enough who would that once again I were a hunter and no more."

"A hunter you shall be," said Pag, "the greatest of hunters. Now talk
no more to me of tigers for a while, lest I should smell them in my
sleep."

After this, for several days Pag was missing for hours at a time, and
when he returned at night always seemed to be very weary. Also, Wi
noticed that other things were missing, namely, his tigerskin cloak
with the necklace and the head of Henga from the broken tree outside
the cave, that now was nothing but skin and bone. Aaka asked him why
he did not wear his cloak. He answered:

"Because winter passes and it grows too warm."

"I do not find it warm," said Aaka. "And why do you not wear the
necklace?"

"Because in spring the skin is tender and it scratches me."

"Surely Pag is a good master to you," said Aaka. "Himself he could not
have answered with a smoother tongue. But where does Pag go so
secretly?"

"I do not know, Wife. I was about to ask you, who watch him well, if
you could tell me."

"That I think I can, Wi. Without doubt he goes to hunt with the old
mother wolf, as he must do when she calls him, which is why he comes
home so tired. I hear that certain of our dead have been dug out of
the snow lately and eaten."

"That has not been reported to me," said Wi.

"Even a chief is not told everything, especially of those he loves,"
answered Aaka, and walked away laughing.

Two nights later Pag went to the mouth of the cave and, by wetting his
finger and holding it in the wind, tested its direction very
carefully. Then he came to Wi and whispered:

"Will you rise an hour before dawn and come with me to kill the
tiger?"

"Had we not better take others also?" asked Wi, hesitating.

"Nay. Only fools share their meat with strangers; let the glory be
ours alone. Now, ask me no more in this place where there are many
ears."

"Good," said Wi, "I will come with you--to kill the tiger or be killed
by it."

So, a little more than an hour before dawn, the two of them might have
been seen slipping from the cave like shadows. But before he went, Wi
kissed Foh, who lay fast asleep at his side, because he did not think
to see him again. Also, he looked at the place where Aaka slept, and
sighed sadly. He was fully armed with his heavy ax of bright stone,
two flint-headed spears, and a knife also of flint. Pag likewise
carried two spears and a knife.

When they were clear of the huts and picking their way toward the wood
by the light of the moon, now near her death, and of the stars, Pag
said that the gale which had been raging for days seemed to have blown
itself away, and the stars shone so brightly that he prophesied fair
weather. Then Wi grew angry, exclaiming:

"Have done with your talk of the weather and the stars, and tell me
whither we go and to what end. Am I a child that you should keep me
thus in the dark?"

"Yes," answered Pag, "I think that you are something of a child, out
of whom women can suck secrets, which cannot be said of me."

"I return home," said Wi, stopping.

"Yet," went on Pag quietly, "if you would hear the tale, it is short.
Only do not stand there like a girl looking after her lover, but come
on, for our time is also short."

"That I can well believe," muttered Wi, as he walked forward.

"Listen," said Pag. "You know the two rocks yonder near the edge of
the forest that people call Man and Wife because they are so close
together and yet divided."

"Yes, I know them. Once we thought of digging a pit there, but did not
do so because the bases of the rocks slope inward and doubtless meet
just under the ground."

"Those who would know must first look to see," said Pag. "I heard that
talk about the pit, heard also Urk declare that his grandfather had
tried to dig one there but could not because the rocks met. Then,
because I knew that Urk's grandfather must have been a great liar--or
perhaps it is Urk who is the liar, I went to try for myself with a
sharpened stake and found that the rocks do not meet. I found another
thing also--that the tiger used this path. So to scare him away for a
while I hung up cast-off skin garments with a man's scent on them.
Then I set to work and dug my pitfall, a very nice pitfall, narrow
like a grave, and placed sharp stakes in it, and lit a fire at the
bottom of it to take away the smell of man, and laid pine boughs over
it which smell of themselves, and covered it with fine sand like to
that around, that I carried there in a skin filled with a shell so
that my hand never touched a grain of it, and did all other things
that might deceive a tiger."

"This tiger cannot be deceived," said Wi gloomily, "for is it not as
cunning as a man? How many pitfalls have we made, and has it not
walked round every one of them?"

"Yes, Wi, that tiger is cunning, but it is also lonely, and when it
sees that another tiger has crossed the pit and is waiting for it on
the farther side, then perhaps it will follow--at least, I hope so."

"Another tiger! What do you mean?"

"That you shall learn presently. And now, Wi, I pray you to forget
that you are a good chief and to remember that you are a better
hunter, and be silent, for then there is naught to fear, because the
wind blows straight down the cleft and the tiger cannot smell us."

Presently they came to the pit where there was a gap in a rocky ridge
at the height of a tall pine, which gap was wider at the top than at
the bottom, worn so by ice or water, perhaps. Indeed, at its foot it
did not measure more than two paces across. To one side of this cleft
lay some stones, large stones, and among these Pag told Wi to hide,
whispering:

"Be swift and lie close, for the dawn is near, and if, as I hope, the
tiger comes, it will be soon. Have your ax ready too."

"What are you going to do?" asked Wi.

"That you shall learn. Be not astonished at anything you may see, and
do not stir unless you are attacked or I call to you."

Then Pag slipped away into the darkness, and, kneeling on the ground,
Wi watched between a crack in the stones. By such light as there was,
having been a hunter from his youth and therefore accustomed to see in
the gloom, as wild beasts can, he perceived that, on the snow-
sprinkled bottom of the cleft, for here in this shaded place the snow
had not melted, appeared footmarks, such as were made by the tiger's
pads, of which the claws cut lines in the snow, and thought to himself
that Pag was too late, for the brute had already passed here. Then he
remembered that this could not be, because, if it had, it would have
fallen into the pit which was dug beneath.

Whence, then, came the footprints? he wondered. Soon he wondered much
more, for almost beneath him in the shadow of the rock and on the
hither side of the pitfall appeared the tiger. Yet how could the tiger
be there, seeing that they had just come to the place across open land
where there were no trees, such as grew in plenty on the farther side
of the cleft, and must have seen it. Yet it was the tiger, for he
could distinguish its striped hide, or some of it. Moreover, it
growled as do beasts of prey, and appeared to be tearing with its jaws
at something that lay before it on the snow just where the pitfall
should end.

Now, thought Wi to himself, if I spring down suddenly and hit it with
all my strength, perhaps I may break this brute's neck or dash out its
brains with a blow of my ax before it turns upon me.

Then he remembered that Pag had said he must not stir except to defend
himself, unless he, Pag, called to him, also that Pag boasted that he
never spoke without a reason. So Wi stayed where he was and watched.

The first gray light of dawn began to gather, and though the tiger was
still hid in the shade, it fell upon that which it seemed to be
devouring, something black and round from which hung hair.

By the gods! it was the head of Henga. Now Wi understood everything.
Pag was the tiger! Yes, inside that skin, fashioned from the chief's
cloak set out to a tiger's shape upon a framework of twigs covered
with dried grass or seaweed, was Pag, in front of whom lay the dried
head of Henga which he pretended to devour. And to think of it! A few
moments ago he had proposed to smite this sham with his ax, thereby
killing Pag. The blood of Wi ran cold at the thought; then he forgot
it and all else. For, on the farther side of the cleft, creeping up
slowly, belly to ground, with waving tail, flashing fangs, and
bristling hair, appeared the monstrous creature they had come out to
seek. There it stood, for now it had risen to its full height which
seemed to be that of a deer; doubtfully it stood, glaring in front of
it with glowing eyes.

The other tiger beneath, or rather Pag in its skin, growled more
fiercely, tearing at the head of Henga. The monster pricked its ears
and growled back, but in a friendly fashion. Then suddenly it seemed
to smell the head of Henga and glared down at it. It stepped forward,
arched its back, and leapt as a wolf cub or a puppy leaps to seize
that which it desires for its play. The tiger rose into the air and,
with gathered paws, landed onto the covering of the pit, which broke
beneath its weight. Down into the pit it went, and after it rolled the
head of Henga. Roar upon roar rent the air as the sharp stakes which
Pag had set at the bottom of the pit sank deeper into the beast
beneath the pressure of its bulk.

Wi leapt forward from his hiding place and ran forward to Pag, who,
having cast off the stuffed-out tiger skin, stood staring into the
pit, a spear in his hand. Wi looked down and saw the huge tiger, its
eyes glowing like lamps, twisting on the stakes. Suddenly, it ceased
its awful roarings, and for one moment they thought that it was dead.
The next Pag cried:

"Beware! The brute comes."

As he spoke, the tiger's claws appeared over the edge of the grave-
like pit, followed by its great flat head. For it had freed itself
from the stakes and with all its mighty strength was drawing itself
from the hole. Pag drove at it with his spear, wounding it in the
throat. It caught the handle with its teeth and bit it in two.

"Smite!" he said, and Wi brought down the ax upon its head, crushing
its skull--a great blow.

Yet even this did not kill the tiger. Wi struck again and shattered
one foreleg. It heaved itself upward and now it was out of the pit. It
reared up and smote at him with its uninjured paw. Wi ran back,
bending so that the blow went over his head, and Pag slipped to one
side. The tiger followed Wi, towering above him on his hind feet, for
because of its hurts it seemed that it could not spring. Wi struck
again with the ax which he wielded in both hands, and the sharp blade
sank into the beast below the breast. He strove to withdraw the ax,
which was firmly fixed in the tough hide, but, before he could do so,
the brute fell on him and down he went beneath it, and lay there
covered by its carcass.

Pag ran up and drove his remaining spear into its side, behind the
forearm. Yes, again and again he pushed with all his weight upon the
spear. Then the tiger, which had opened its mouth to seize the head of
Wi and crush it, uttered a moaning noise; its jaws closed, its head
fell down on to the face of Wi, its claws contracted, scattering the
sand, a shiver ran through its whole length, and it lay still.

Again Pag thrust at the spear, driving it in yet deeper, until he knew
that it must have pierced the beast's heart. Then he seized one
forepaw and, putting out all his great strength, dragged at it till
the dead tiger rolled over upon its back, revealing Wi beneath,
painted red with blood.

Pag, who thought that he was dead, uttered a low cry of grief, and as
he did so Wi sat up, gasping, for the breath was pressed out of him.

"Are you torn?" asked Pag.

"I think not," grunted Wi. "I think the claws missed me."

"Perhaps after all there are some gods," said Pag.

"At least there are devils," answered Wi, looking down at the dead
monster.

"You will have a fine new cloak, a cloak of glory," said Pag.

"Then it should cover your shoulders," answered Wi.




CHAPTER X



THE BOAT AND ITS BURDEN


Wi and Pag, leaning on each other, for, though neither was hurt, now,
after all was over, both felt very tired, walked back to the cave, for
with the carcass of the huge tiger they could do nothing by
themselves. But first Pag shook the seaweed and withies with which it
had been stuffed out of the chief's cloak wherein he had played the
part of a tiger, and since Wi could not wear it because he was too
filthy with blood and dirt, threw it over his shoulder. But the head
of Henga he left where it lay. It had served its turn, also Pag swore
that never again did he wish to have it so close to his nose and
teeth.

When they reached the huts, it was still so near to the dawn that no
one was about, for since the people learned that the great tiger
attacked at this hour, they had become late risers. Therefore, they
came to the mouth of the cave unnoticed.

Here, however, they found some waiting for them, as Aaka, having been
awakened early by Foh who came to tell her that his father was gone
from their bed, rose to look for him. For in this matter Aaka was
strange; although so sharp with Wi when he was present, she kept a
watch on all his movements and grew disturbed when she could not see
him and did not know where he might be or why he had gone away. This
mood was strong on her that morning because she was sure in herself
that danger was near to him, especially when she learned that Pag was
also missing from the cave. Therefore, although the tiger might be on
the prowl, she bade Foh run swiftly to the hut of his uncle Moananga
and bring him to her.

So Moananga came, and with him Tana who would not be left alone in the
hut; also others whom he summoned, for, because of the tiger, if
people stirred at this hour when it was known to be abroad, a company
of them always went together. They reached the cave, and Moananga
asked what was the trouble. Aaka answered that she desired to know if
they had seen Wi, whom she could not find, or Pag, who doubtless was
with him, or if they knew where he had gone.

Moananga answered no, and spoke calm words to her, for she was much
disturbed, saying that Wi had many duties to attend of which he told
no one, and doubtless one of these had called him away. Or perhaps, he
added, he had gone to the glacier to make prayer to the Ice-gods or to
seek some sign of them.

While he was speaking thus, Foh pointed with his finger, and behold!
out of the morning mists appeared Wi, painted from head to heel with
blood and leaning upon the shoulder of Pag the dwarf, as a lame man
leans upon a stick.

"Not for nothing was I troubled," said Aaka. "See, Wi is wounded, and
sorely."

"Yet he walks well and his ax is as red as his skin," answered
Moananga.

Then Wi came up to them and Aaka asked:

"Whose blood is that which covers you, Husband? Your own or another
man's?"

"Neither, Wife," answered Wi. "It is the blood of the great toothed
tiger which Pag and I have been fighting."

"Yet Pag's skin is white and yours is red, which is strange. But what
of the tiger, Husband?"

"The tiger is dead, Wife."

Now they stared at him, then Aaka asked:

"Did you slay it?"

"Nay," he answered, "I fought it, but I think Pag was its slayer. He
made the plan; he dug the trap; he set the bait, and it was his spear
that reached the brute's heart at last ere my head was bitten off."

"Go look at the tiger's skull," said Pag, "and see whether Wi's ax
fits into the hole there. Look at its forearm also and judge what
weapon shattered it."

"Pag! Always Pag! Is there nothing that you can do without Pag,
Husband?"

"Oh, yes," answered Wi bitterly. "Perchance I might kiss a woman, if I
could find one who was fair and gentle-hearted."

"Why don't you?" mocked Aaka.

Then he went past her into the cave and called for water to wash
himself, while Pag sat down in front of it and told the tale of how Wi
had slain the tiger to all who would listen to him, but of his part in
that play saying nothing at all.

Led by Moananga, men went out, a score of them or more, and carried in
the beast, which they laid down in a place where it could be seen by
everyone. That day all who could stand upon their feet from the oldest
to the youngest of the tribe, came to stare at the dead monster which
had worked them so much mischief, while Pag sat by grinning, and
pointed out how the ax of Wi had shattered its skull and well-nigh
hewn off its great forepaw.

"But who gave the wound that pierced its heart?" asked one.

"Oh! Wi did that, too," answered Pag. "When the beast charged him with
its last strength he leapt aside and thrust his spear through its
heart, after which it fell on top of him and tried to bite off his
head."

"And what did you do all this time?" asked Tana, the wife of Moananga.

"I? Oh! I looked on. No, I forgot. I knelt down and prayed to the gods
that Wi might conquer."

"You lie, Wolf-man," said Tana, "for both your spears are buried in
the beast."

"Perhaps," answered Pag. "If so, it is an art I have learned from
women. If you have never lied, Tana, for good ends or bad, then
reproach me; but if you have, leave me alone."

Then Tana was silent, for although she was sweet and loving, it was
well known that she did not always tell the truth.

After this, when he was recovered from his weariness and shaking and
his crushed ribs ceased to ache, all the people came up and worshipped
Wi who had rid them of the tiger, as he had rid them of the wolves,
declaring that he was one of the gods who had come out of the ice to
save them.

"So you say when things go well and danger passes. But when they go
ill and it hangs over your heads, then you tell another tale about
me," answered Wi, smiling sadly. "Moreover, you give praise where it
is not due while you withhold it where it is due."

Then, to be rid of all this clamour, he slipped away from them and
went out quite alone to walk upon the beach, while Pag stayed behind
to skin the tiger and to dress its hide. For now that the wolves were
dead and the tiger was dead, and Henga the murderer was dead, all
slain by Wi, man or woman or child might walk the beach in safety and
alone, especially as the bears seemed to have gone away, though
whether this was from fear of the tiger, or lack of food none knew.

The great gale from the south, which that spring had raged for very
many days, almost up to the night when Wi went out to fight the tiger,
had now quite blown itself out, leaving behind it a clear gray sky,
though of sun that spring there seemed to be even less than during the
year that was gone. Indeed, the air remained very cold, feeling as it
does when snow is about to fall, though this was not the time for
snow; the flowers which should have been making the woodlands and the
hillsides bright had not yet bloomed, nor had the seals and the birds
come in their wonted numbers. But though the wind was gone, there was
still a great swell upon the sea, and big waves upon which floated
blocks of ice broke sullenly upon the beach.

Wi walked toward the east. Presently he came to the mouth of the
glacier cleft, and though he had not purposed to go up to the face of
the ice or to look upon the shape of the Sleeper, something seemed to
lead him there; indeed, he felt as if an invisible cord was drawing
him toward this gloomy yet to him sacred spot, because in it dwelt the
only gods he knew. Moreover, he remembered that, during the mighty
frosts of the past winter, and especially at the time of the big gale,
great noises had been heard in the ice, which caused the people to
believe the gods were stirring.

He reached the head of the cleft, and there, poor savage that he was,
covered his eyes with his hands and, kneeling down, prayed after his
fashion. He thanked the gods because they had delivered him and the
people in his charge from great peril, giving him strength to kill the
evil Henga and, by the help of Pag, to do away with the most of the
wolves and with the awful tiger that the tribe believed contained the
spirit of Henga still lingering upon earth. He prayed also that the
laws which he had made might prosper; that there might be plenty of
food; that Foh his son might grow and be strong, ceasing to cough;
that Aaka might be gentle toward him who felt so lonely and
companionless and who by the law that he had made was forbidden to
seek any other wife. Lastly, he prayed that the sun might shine and
the weather become warm.

Then, as had happened to him before in this spot, something seemed to
speak in his heart, reminding him that he had brought no offering,
also that it was too late to find one, especially now that the wolves
were gone and he could not slay a beast as he had done before and set
its head upon a stone that the gods might smell blood.

Well, if so, what did it matter? How could the blood of wolves be of
any service to gods, and if it were so, was it good to worship beings
who rejoiced in blood and suffering? If they lived and had power, must
they not desire a very different sacrifice? What sacrifice? A thought
came to him. Surely that of the heart, that of repentance for past
evil, that of promise to do better. A gust of passion seized him. He
flung himself upon his face, muttering:

"O Gods, let me be the sacrifice. Give me strength to see and
understand, to bring blessing upon the heads of all, to protect and
nurture all, if only for a little while, and then, if you will, take
my life in payment for your gifts."

Thus prayed poor Wi, and for a moment thought that he was better than
those among whom he lived, since he knew that not in the heart of one
of them would this prayer have been born, except perhaps in that of
Pag, if Pag had believed in anything, which he did not. For even then
Wi understood that he who does not believe cannot pray. A boy, so long
as he thinks he sees something or smells it, or hears it move, will
throw stones in the hope that he may hit it; but when he is certain
that there is nothing beneath the water or in the tree, for how long
will he go on throwing the stones? Now this was the difference between
them; although he could not see it, Wi thought that there was
something beneath the water or in the tree, and therefore continued to
throw his stones of prayer; whereas Pag was sure that there was
nothing at all, and therefore kept his stones and saved his strength.

Then Wi remembered that, after all, he had no cause to boast himself.
He prayed for the people. But why did he do so? Oh! the answer was
plain: it was not for the people and their woes that he was sorry, but
for his own, in which he saw theirs reflected by the mirror of his
heart, as images are seen in clear water. His little daughter had been
taken from him in a cruel fashion. He had avenged her death upon the
murderer, thinking thus to satisfy his soul. Yet it was not satisfied,
for he had learned that there is no comfort in vengeance. What he
needed was his daughter, not the blood of her butcher. Therefore he
hoped that some land unseen lay beyond that of life, where he might
find her and others whom he had loved, which was why he prayed to the
gods. He was sorry for others who had lost their children, because he
could measure something of their suffering by his own, but at bottom
he was most sorry for himself. So it was with everything. By his own
unhappiness he measured that of others, and when he feared for them,
really he feared for himself and those he loved, feeling for all with
the ache of his own heart and seeing all by the light of his own eyes.

These thoughts crushed Wi, who by help of them now understood that
even the sacrifice which he offered for others was full of
selfishness, because he desired to escape from trouble and at the same
time to earn merit and to leave a hallowed name behind him, he who did
not know that than this no higher measure is given to man, for if it
were he would cease to be man and become a god.

Of a sudden Wi abandoned prayer. He had thrown the spear of his mind
at the skies, and lo! it stood there fixed in the ground before his
feet. Since he could never get away from himself, what was the use of
praying? Let him do those things that lay to his hand as best he might
and bear his burdens as far as he could and cease from importuning
help from he knew not whence. He who in this bitter moment of
understanding for a while became sure that man could not hunt the
gods, since it was they who hunted him, paying no more heed to his
petitions than he, Wi, did to the groanings of any seal that he
pursued as it strove impotently to struggle to the sea where it would
be safe.

He rose from the ground to look at the face of the glacier and
discover how far it had moved forward during the fierce winter that
was gone. He stared at it and started back, for there in hideous
imagery stood his own thought portrayed. In that clear ice he had been
accustomed to see the dim form of the Sleeper and behind it, rather to
one side, a yet dimmer form, thought to be that of a man who pursued
the Sleeper, or perchance of one of the gods taking his rest with it.
Now, behold! all this was changed. There stood the Sleeper as before,
but by magic, or perhaps by some convulsion of the ice, the figure
that had been behind was now in front. Yes, there it stood, with not
more than once pace length of ice between Wi himself and it, a weird
and awful thing.

It was a man, of that there could be no doubt, but such a man as Wi
had never seen, for his limbs were covered with hair, his forehead
sloped backwards, and his great jaw stood out beyond the line of his
flat nose. His arms were very long, his legs were bowed, and in one of
his hands he held a short, rough staff of wood. For the rest, his sunk
but open eyes seemed to be small and his teeth large and prominent,
while his head was covered with coarse and matted hair and from his
shoulder hung a cloak, the skin of some animal of which the forepaws
were knotted about his neck.

On this strange and hideous creature's face there was stamped a look
of the wildest terror, telling Wi that he had died suddenly and that,
when he died, he was very much afraid. Of what had he been afraid? Wi
wondered. Not of the Sleeper, he thought, because until some movement
of the glacier had thrust him forward during the past winter, he had
been behind the Sleeper, as though he were pursuing it. No, it was
something else that he feared.

Suddenly Wi guessed what it was. Long, long ago this forefather of the
tribe, for knowing no other men, Wi thought that so he must be,
thousands of winters ago perhaps, this man had been flying from the
ice and snow, when in an instant they rushed down and swallowed him
up, so that there he choked and died. He was no god, but just a poor
man, if indeed he were altogether a man, whom death had taken in this
fashion and whom the ice had preserved with his story written on his
hideous face and fleeing form.

Then, was the Sleeper a god, or was he some huge wild beast that lived
when the man lived and perished when the man perished, and in like
fashion roaring open-mouthed to the heavens for help? So much for the
gods! If they dwelt there in the glacier, as perhaps they dwelt
everywhere, it was not in the shapes of this enormous brute, or of the
man who also looked like a brute, for, as Wi had never seen an ape, he
did not know that this was what he really resembled.

Whatever their end may have been, as he stared at them a fancy, or a
vision, came to Wi. That man was himself--or all men, and the huge
brute behind was Death who pursued, and the ice around was Doom which
swallowed up both Life and Death. Vague thoughts of all this mystery
got hold of his untutored mind and overcame it, so that presently he
turned to creep shivering and terror-struck from these relics and
emblems of a tragedy he could not comprehend.

Coming to the beach again, Wi continued to walk eastward past the
smaller hills and ice-filled valleys, for he desired to visit a
certain bay beyond them, where the seals were wont to gather when they
arrived, hoping that he would see the first of them coming up from the
south to breed. Like the rest of the people, Wi thought more of seals
than he did of anything else, because these furnished the most of
their winter food and of the other things that they needed. On he went
till, turning a spur of cliff which here ran down to the sea to the
east of the glacier field, he came to the bay that was bordered by a
wide stretch of white sand and backed by a barren, rocky plain.
Ceasing to ponder upon the Sleeper and the man and the deeper things
that the sight of them had awakened in his heart, Wi searched the
shore with his keen hunter's eyes, and the water of the bay and the
ridge of rock whereby at low tide it was almost enclosed, that ran at
some four spear-casts from the shore, but not one seal could he see.

"They are even later this spring than they were last year," he
muttered to himself, and was about to make his way homeward when, on
the farther side of the ridge, where the waves broke, he caught sight
of some strange object that was stranded among the surf, a long thing
which seemed to be pointed at both ends. At first he thought that it
might be a dead animal of a sort new to him, washed up by the sea, and
was turning to go when the surf lifted the object and he saw that it
seemed to be hollow and that there lay in it what looked to him like a
human form.

Now Wi's curiosity was awakened, and he wished that he could come
nearer. This, however, was impossible, for at each end of the ridge of
rocks was open water through which the tide raced swiftly. Or rather
it was not possible except by swimming out from the shore of the bay.
It is true that Wi was a great swimmer but the water was bitterly
cold, for in it still floated many lumps of drift ice, so cold that
there was much danger to a swimmer, who might, moreover, be cut or
bruised by the sharp edges of the ice. Also, the swim would be long,
for the ridge was far away. So again he thought that he would go home
and not give himself up to more fancies about someone who lay in that
hollow thing which was strange to him, for Wi had never seen a boat.
Indeed, he turned to do so and walked a few paces.

Then for a second time that day it seemed to him as though a rope were
drawing him, this time not to the glacier face but to the ridge of
rock and that which lay upon its farther side. Supposing that there
was a man--or woman--yonder? It seemed impossible because no other men
or women lived except those upon the beach of whom he was chief. What
he saw was some drift log splintered white by rolling upon stones, or
perhaps a great fish dead and rotten. And yet how could he say that
there were no other men and women, he who had just looked upon the
corpse of a man who must have lived thousands of years ago when the
ancient ice that wrapped him round was born in the womb of the distant
mountains whence it had flowed? How could he be sure that he and his
people were the only two-legged creatures on the earth, which perhaps
was bigger than they knew?

Oh! he would go to look, for if he did not he would be sorry all his
life. Should he be cramped in the cold water and drowned, or should
the pack ice strike him so that he sank, after all it would not matter
very much. Then, doubtless, Pag would become chief, or perhaps he
would make Moananga chief, which would please the people better, and
be the whisperer in his ear. Either of them would look after Foh, or
if they did not, Aaka would, especially when he was gone and she could
no more be jealous because the boy loved him better than he did her.
Probably, too, there at the bottom of the sea was peace without fears
or hopes, questionings, or disappointments. Also fate was always
behind them as the huge Sleeper was behind that wild, hairy creature
that was once a man.

So thought WI, and as he thought he threw off his cloak and laid it on
a rock, hiding the ax beneath it so that, if he returned no more, Pag
and the others might learn that the sea had taken him. Then he plunged
into the water very swiftly, lest his courage should desert him, and
struck out for the reef. At first that water was bitterly cold but, as
he swam with great strokes, stopping now and again to push aside the
blocks of floating ice or to feel them with his hand beneath the
surface lest on them should be sharp points that would cut him, he
grew warmer.

Also, the joy of the quest, the hope of adventure, caused his blood to
flow more quickly than it had done there upon the beach, where he was
filled with so many sad thoughts and haunted by the memory of the
strange and hideous man with whom he had come face to face in the ice
of the glacier. Now he felt as he had done when as a boy he had
climbed the mountain crag on which none had ever dared to set foot, to
rob the great eagle's nest, and had brought down its young one in a
basket on his back, while the parent eagles screamed round him
striking at this head and tearing him, which young one he had pinioned
and kept for years, till at last the dogs killed it. Yes, once more he
was a fearless boy, untroubled by memories of yesterday or fears for
to-morrow, and seeking only what the hour might bring him.

At length Wi reached the reef, uncramped and unhurt. Crawling onto it,
he shook himself as a dog does, then very cautiously picked his way
among its stones and peered down at the spot, where from the height of
the shore he had seen that strange, sharp-pointed thing in which a
figure seemed to be lying. It was gone! No, there it was right beneath
him, lifted up toward him by the send of the surf. It was something
made by man to float upon the water, much larger than he had thought,
for five or six people could have sat in it, hollowed it would seem
from a great tree, thicker than any that he knew, for there were ax
marks in the red-hued wood. Moreover, his eyes had not deceived him,
for, behold! within this shaped log lay a figure covered with a cloak
or blanket of white fur which hid it all, even the head that rested at
the raised end of the log. No, not quite all, for outside of the cloak
lay a tress of hair, long hair, yellow as the marsh flowers that came
in spring, also a white arm and hand, which hand grasped a wooden
implement, that from its shape, he guessed, must be used to drive the
hollowed log through the water.

Wi stared and stared, and while he stared became aware that this hand
was not that of a dead woman, for from its delicate shape he knew it
to be a woman's, because, although blue with cold, presently the
little finger moved, bending itself inward. Noting this, he pondered
for a moment. What could he do? To swim to the beach bearing a
senseless woman was impossible; moreover, she would die in the icy
water. If she might be brought there at all, it must be in that in
which she lay. Yet to drag that heavy log across the reef was behind
his strength. Therefore there was but one thing to be done. It had
come ashore but a little distance from the western channel, by which
the sea flowed in and out of the bay. The tide had turned, he noted it
as he swam, and was now running shoreward. If he pushed the log to the
channel, it would float to the beach. He leapt into the surf and
thrust it forward; being light, it moved easily, and as it drew but
very little water, not more than four handbreadths, it would seem, he
could guide it through the surf and shallows out of reach of the
breaking waves.

Pushing it in front of him, presently he came to the lip of the race
down which the tide began to run strongly shoreward. Here he paused a
moment, proposing to take to the water once more and swim behind the
hollow tree, guiding it with his hand. Then he remembered that the
water was dreadfully cold--that the way was long and that, before he
covered it, cramp might seize him so that he would sink and go to find
out the truth about the gods and many other matters.

Perhaps this might be well for him, but if he were drowned, what would
happen to her who lay there? Without doubt, she, who must already be
near to death, would die also, for except to kill seals, of which as
yet there were not any, no one came to this lonely far-off bay, or if
perchance some did and saw a strange woman lying in a hollow tree,
they would run away, thinking that she was a witch of the sea, such as
was told of in legends. Or perhaps they would kill her lest she should
be the bearer of a curse.

Then he thought to himself, why should he not get into the log and
guide it ashore with that which lay in the stranger's hand? Often when
the sea was calm and the weather warm he, like others of the tribe,
would bestride a piece of wood and paddle it by the help of a bough to
a certain sand bank that swarmed with fish, there to catch them on a
line. Therefore, he could guess the use of what she held and knew how
it should be handled.

Taking the paddle very gently from her hand, Wi entered the canoe, for
such it was, and seating himself at the woman's feet, pushed it off
into the centre of the race. Here the tide took it and bore it
forward, so that all he need do, at any rate at first, was to keep the
bark straight and after they were out of the race and in the bay, with
gentle strokes of the paddle that he dipped into the water first on
one side and then on the other, as he was accustomed to do when out
fishing on a log, to drive it shoreward, avoiding the lumps of
floating ice.

Thus this naked savage man and the shrouded woman upon whose face he
had not yet dared to look, partly because he was naked and partly
because he feared what he might behold beneath that cloak--a sea-
witch, perhaps, who would drag him into the deep water--came safely to
the shore. When a while before Wi had looked upon the sleeper in the
ice and the hairy one who seemed to flee in front of it, in his heart
he had compared these two to man being hunted of Fate in a most
fearful form. He did not know that Fate has many shapes and that some
of them are very fair. He did not guess that there stretched senseless
before him, lay his fate, a fate as deadly as the monstrous Sleeper
would have been to the hairy man who had lived and died thousands of
years ago.




CHAPTER XI



LALEELA


Wi leapt to the beach, and seizing the canoe by a hide rope which was
attached to its prow, dragged it over the hard, wet sand, as, being
very strong, he could do easily enough, till it was well above high-
water mark. Then he ran to the rock and clothed himself swiftly in his
girdle of dressed seal fur and his hooded cloak of gray wolfskin which
he wore when out hunting, slipping his hand through the loop of the
ax, for, after all, who knew what might lie beneath that covering?
Also, about his shoulders he hung the bag in which when he went abroad
he kept food for a day or two and his tools for making fire. Then he
returned to the canoe and, with a beating heart, for like all savages
he was frightened of the unknown, drew off the fur wrapping from her
who lay senseless, and stared down.

Next instant he staggered back, for never had he seen and never had he
dreamed of a woman so beautiful as this that the sea had brought to
him. Tall she was, and shapely. Young, too, and all about her hung the
matted masses of her yellow hair. Though somewhat blue with cold and
reddened where the weather had caught it, her skin was of the
whiteness of snow; her face was oval and her features were fine and
well cut. Her eyes he could not see because they were shut, at which
he rejoiced, for had they been open he would have known that she was
dead; but he noted the long curling eyelashes which lay upon her
cheek, also that they were not yellow like her hair, but dark, indeed,
almost black in hue.

She was clothed, but in a fashion that was strange to him, for beneath
her breast, supported by straps across her shoulders, was a long
garment blue in colour made of he knew not what, that was tied in at
the waist with a girdle of fur to which were sewn polished stones and
beautiful little shells that glittered. Also about her neck was a
string of amber rounded into beads and pierced, while on her feet were
sandals made fast with broidered thongs. Lastly from her shoulders
hung a long cloak, also deep blue in colour and of the same soft
unknown stuff as was her gown, and with this a bag worked like the
sandals.

Yes, Wi staggered back, muttering:

"The Sea-witch! The Sea-witch herself. She who brings curses, no
woman. Now what says the tale--that such should be thrust back into
the sea, taking their curse with them. I will thrust her back into the
sea."

He drew near again and touched her cheek with his finger tip, as
though expecting to find it vapour, which he did not, for he asked
himself,

"This one has flesh like women. Have sea-witches flesh like a
woman's?"

Just then the Sea-witch shivered and made a little moaning noise.

"And can they shiver?" went on Wi, "they who are said to live upon the
ice? Surely first I should warm her who can suffer and bring her back
to life. I can always kill her afterward if I find that she is a witch
and not a woman. That is, unless she kills me."

He looked about him. At the back of the beach was a sloping cliff of
soft stone, and in it a little cave hollowed out by water; indeed a
spring of pure water bubbled beside it, of which Wi had often drunk
when he sheltered in this cave, weary with the hunting of seals. Now
he bethought him of this place and stooping down, encircled the Sea-
witch's shape with his strong arms, lifted her, and although she was
heavy, if somewhat wasted, perhaps with want and cold, carried her
past the beach to the cave, where he laid her down upon a bed of dried
seaweed which he himself had used at the last seal hunting. Then he
began to rub her hands and arms, and as still she did not wake, he
lifted her again and held her against his breast that she might gather
warmth from him.

Still she swooned on, although he clasped her fast, so once more he
laid her down and, covering her with his cloak and her own, bethought
him of another plan. In this cave amongst other things used by the
hunters, was a store of driftwood for making fires on which to cook
seal meat. Wi took from his bag his fire sticks and, setting one
between his feet and on it a pinch of dry touchwood powder from his
pouch, twirled the sharp-pointed hardwood rod between the palms of his
hands more quickly, perhaps, than ever he did before. The spark
appeared, the touchwood lighted. Wi blew on it and on little pieces of
crumbled seaweed that he added till there was a tiny flame, on which
he placed more dried seaweed and more and more. Then he set the
burning seaweed beneath the wood that he had built up ready, leaving a
hollow in its centre, and presently there was a great blaze.

He paused, admiring his own work after his simple fashion, and
wondering dimly why two pieces of wood rubbed together produced fire
which, if it were allowed to grow and spread, would burn a forest, as
every day he wondered about many things that he could not understand.
Then, bringing his mind back to the matter with which he had to deal,
he lifted the Sea-witch and laid her down upon her fur rug quite close
to the fire, being careful first to arrange the masses of her tumbled
hair so that no spark could fall among them. Thus she lay a while, the
heat beating on her and her beautiful face illumined in the strong
light of the flames, while Wi watched her entranced, wondering whether
she would live or die. He hoped that she would live, and yet he felt
that if she died perhaps it would be better for him, for then he would
be left with the company of a marvellous memory, yet without fear of
trouble to be borne.

"Which way will you have it?" asked Wi of Fate, and sat still by the
fire awaiting the answer.

Presently it came, for the Sea-witch was strong and did not mean to
die. She needed nothing but warmth to call her back to life and, on
his breast and by his fire, Wi had given her warmth. She opened her
eyes and with a little catching of the breath Wi noted that they were
large and dark--not black but of the hue of those woodland flowers
that we call violets, and very tender. Next she sat up, resting her
weight upon one hand, and stared at the fire, muttering something in a
soft voice and holding her other hand toward it. Thus she remained a
while, drinking in its glorious warmth, then began to look about her,
first out toward the sea, then round the little cave.

So her eyes fell upon Wi, a dark, massive figure; a perfect shape of
developed manhood who now was on his knees bending toward her with his
hands outstretched a little, silent, motionless, like to the statue of
one who is lost in prayer. She started, then began to study him with
those great eyes of hers. Slowly her glance travelled up and down him,
resting for a long while upon his face. Then it fell upon the shining
ax on his wrist and for a moment grew fearful. Back from this ax it
flew to his face and, reading there that she had nothing of which to
be afraid, for it was a most earnest, kindly face, wild enough but not
ill-looking after its fashion, she shook her head and smiled, whereon
in a slow and doubtful fashion he smiled back at her.

Next she touched her lips and her throat with her long fingers. For a
moment Wi was puzzled. Then he understood. Leaping up he ran from the
cave and at once returned with his joined hands full of water, for
these were his only cup. She smiled again, nodding, then bent her head
and drank the water till all was gone, and by a little sign asked for
more. Thrice he went and thrice returned, till at last her thirst was
satisfied.

Again she lifted her fingers, this time laying them upon her teeth,
and again Wi understood. Seizing his bag, he drew from it a handful of
dried codfish, and, to show that it was good, took a little piece,
chewed, and swallowed it. She considered this food doubtfully, showing
him that it was one to which she had not been accustomed. Then,
overcome by hunger, accepted a fragment and made trial. Apparently,
she liked it well enough, for she asked for more and more till she had
eaten a good meal, after which she signed to him to bring her another
drink of water.

By the time this strange feast was done, the light began to fail. She
noted it and pointed to the sky, then spoke, asking some question, but
what she said he could not understand, nor could she understand what
he said to her. Now Wi was much perplexed. Night fell and the village
was far away, nor was it safe to try to walk thither in the darkness
because of wild beasts and other dangers.

Moreover, this Sea-witch must be very tired and need rest, if witches
ever rested. So he signed to her to lie down to sleep, and made a bed
for her of dry seaweed, near to the fire. Also, taking more seaweed,
he piled it up outside the mouth of the cave, and by pointing first to
himself and then to it, showed her that he would sleep there. She
nodded to tell him that she understood, whereon Wi left her for a
while and by the light of the dying day, walked some distance round
the spur of the cliff which almost encircled the bay, and beyond it to
discover if perchance Pag had followed him, tracking his footsteps as
sometimes he did.

But Pag, who was working on the skin of the tiger and thought that Wi
would return at nightfall, had not done so. Therefore, finding neither
Pag nor anyone else, Wi walked back again. Coming to the mouth of the
cave, he peeped in and saw that the Sea-witch had lain down and was
asleep, or at any rate that her eyes were closed. He went away and
covering himself with seaweed, lay down also, but sleep he could not
for it was cold there outside the cave, and he was hungry, who would
not touch the dried fish because the Sea-witch might need more of it
at any moment, and the supply was small. Indeed, that he might not
fall into temptation he had left the bag in which it was carried at
her side.

Yet perhaps cold and hunger would not have kept him awake, who was
hardy and like all savages accustomed to privations. Perhaps it was
the thought of the strange adventure that had befallen him and of the
wonderful beauty of the woman creature whom he had saved from death--
that is, if she were a woman and could die; also of all that these
things might mean to him, which caused him to toss from side to side
with open eyes.

Already he knew that, whatever chanced, even if she were taken away as
swiftly and as strangely as she had come, he would never be able to
forget this witch of the sea who even now seemed to draw his heart
toward her. And if she were not taken away, what then? With what eyes
would the people look on her, and how would Aaka receive her, and
where was she to live? In the old days, before the making of the new
law, it would have been simple, for if she were willing, then there
was nothing to prevent him, the chief, or indeed any other man from
taking a second wife, and even if she were not willing she might pass
as such and have the shelter of the cave. But there was the new law,
and he had sworn an oath that might not be broken, for if it were,
shame, mockery, and disaster would come upon him, and perhaps to
others.

Thus mused Wi from hour to hour, striving to climb his slippery mount
of doubt and fear first from this side and then from that, and always
failing, until his head swam and he gave up the quest. Twice he rose
and crept into the cave to replenish the fire lest that fair sleeper
should grow cold. This he did with his eyes turned from her because,
according to the customs of the people, it was not seemly that he
should look upon a maiden while she lay asleep. Yet, although he did
not look at her, he was sure that she looked at him, for he could
feel, or thought that he could feel, her eyes upon him.

After his second visit to the cave, he did at length sink into a
troubled sleep, only to be awakened suddenly. Glancing upward but
without stirring he saw what had awakened him. It was the Sea-witch
who stood there, tall and stately, considering him with earnest eyes.
He lay quite still, feigning slumber, till at length, having as, he
thought, made up her mind that really he was asleep, she moved a
little way and looked upward, searching the skies. Presently she found
what she sought, for between a rift in the clouds appeared the faint
shape of the waning moon. Thrice she bowed to it, then, kneeling down,
with an uplifted hand spoke aloud, making some sweet-voiced prayer.

"Evidently she is a witch," thought Wi, "for she worships the moon,
which no one does among the people. And yet, is it more witch-like to
pray to the moon that gives light than to kneel and make offerings
before the Ice-gods and him who sleeps in the ice? Perhaps, if she saw
me do that, she would say that I was a wizard."

She rose, again bowed thrice, turned, and glanced at Wi as though in
farewell, and glided away across the beach.

"She is going back into the sea, as a witch would. Well, let her go,
for perhaps it is better," thought Wi again.

She came to the canoe and stood by it, thinking; then she bent herself
and pushed at it, but by now it had sunk into the wet sand, and being
water-logged, was too heavy for her to move.

"I will help her," said Wi, and rising, he followed her.

She looked at him without astonishment and apparently without fear; it
was as though she knew already that he would never harm her. By signs
he made it clear that if she desired it, he would bale out the canoe
and push it into the water for her, which seemed to surprise her a
little. Most earnestly she studied his face, noting, perhaps, that it
was very sad and that what he offered to do was not because he wished
to be rid of her. Then, muttering some words and waving her arms, she
looked upward again at the dying moon like one who seeks a sign.
Presently she came to a decision, for suddenly she shook her head,
smiled a little, and, taking him very gently by the hand, led him back
toward the cave, which she entered, leaving him without.

"So the Witch means to stay," thought Wi. "If so, it is her own
choice, for I have done my best to help her back to the sea."

Day came at last, gray and dull as all the days seemed to be that
year, but without snow or rain. The Witch appeared at the mouth of the
cave and beckoned to Wi, who sat shivering without. For a little while
he hesitated, then entered to find that she had heaped wood upon the
fire, which burned gloriously. In front of it she sat upon the seaweed
of her bed that she had gathered to a pile, changed indeed from what
she had been when first he saw her lying at the bottom of the hollowed
log.

Looking at her, he thought that she must have washed herself at the
spring before he saw her praying to the moon, for there was no longer
any brine upon her face or arms, also her blue cloak and other
garments were dry and, to his sight, who had never seen such robes,
splendid. Moreover, she was drawing through the masses of her yellow
hair something with many sharp points made of horn or bone, which
doubtless she had taken from her bag, a new thing to Wi, for combs
were unknown amongst the people, though now, when he looked upon it
and saw its use, he wondered that they had not thought of them before.

While she was still engaged upon this task and the long yellow waving
hair that had been so mattered and tangled separated itself till it
hung about her glittering in the firelight, a garment in itself that
hid her to the waist, Wi stood before her awkwardly, for he was
amazed. Then he bethought him that by now she must be hungry again,
and lifting his bag that lay near by, he poured out more of the
shredded codfish and offered it to her. She began to eat heartily
enough, till some thought seemed to strike her, and she pointed first
to the codfish, then to Wi's mouth, also lower down, saying as plainly
as signs could do, that he, too, must be hungry.

He shook his head, pretending that this was not so, but she would not
be deceived, and held out a piece of the fish toward him, refusing to
eat any more until it was swallowed. The end of it was that together
they finished all remaining in the bag, eating alternately.

It was just as Wi was offering the last fragment to the Sea-witch,
that Pag appeared at the mouth of the cave and stood staring at them
outlined against the bright background of the fire, as though he
believed them to be ghosts.

The Sea-witch, glancing up, perceived this squat, bow-legged form,
great head, and ugly, one-eyed face, and for the first time was
frightened. At least, she grasped Wi's arm and looked at him in
inquiry, whereon, not knowing what else to do, he smiled, patted her
hand, and spoke to Pag in a commanding voice, of which she understood
the tones, if not the words.

"What are you doing here?" Wi asked.

"I wonder," answered Pag reflectively, "for in this cave there seems
to be no place for me. Still, if you would know, I followed your
footprints hither, fearing lest harm had befallen you--as I think it
has," he added still more reflectively, fixing his one bright eye upon
the Sea-witch.

"Have you brought any food with you?" asked Wi, who to tell the truth
desired to fend off explanations for a while. "If so, give it to me,
for this maiden," and he nodded at the Sea-witch, "has fasted long and
is still hungry."

"How do you know that she is not married and that she has fasted
long?" asked Pag inconsequently, adding, "Can you talk her language?"

"No," answered Wi, seizing upon the last part of the question and
ignoring the rest. "I found her floating in a hollow log which lies
yonder on the beach and brought her back to life."

"Then you found something that was worth finding, Wi, for she is very
beautiful," said Pag, "though what Aaka will say about her, I do not
know."

"Nor do I," answered Wi, rubbing his brow, "or the people either."

"Perhaps she is a witch whom you would do well to kill. Urk and N'gae
tell of such, Wi."

"Perhaps, Pag, but, witch or woman, I do not mean to kill her."

"I understand that, Wi, for who could kill anything so lovely? Look at
her face and shape and hair, and those great eyes."

"I have looked at them already," replied Wi with irritation. "Cease
your foolish talk and tell me what I am to do."

Pag pondered a while and replied:

"I think that you had better marry her and tell the people that the
Ice-gods, or the Sea-gods, or any other gods, gave her to you, which
indeed they seem to have done."

"Fool! how do I know that she would marry me who am so far beneath
her? Also there is the new law."

"Ah!" said Pag, "I always misdoubted me of that law, and now I
understand why I did so. Well, if you will not kill her and will not
marry her, you must bring her to the village, and since she cannot
live with Aaka or in the cave, or in any place where there is another
woman, you must set her in a hut by herself. There is a very fine one
empty quite near the mouth of the cave, so that you could look at her
whenever you liked."

Wi, who was thinking of other things, asked in an absent-minded way
what hut was empty.

"That of Rahi the Miser who, you remember, died last week, as some
said from fear of the tiger, but as I believe of grief because you
ordered him to divide up his fish hooks and flint knives with those
who had none."

"Yes, I remember," said Wi, "and, by the way, have you got the fish
hooks?"

"Not yet, Wi, but I shall have them soon, for I am sure that old woman
who lived with Rahi and who has run away from the hut buried them in
his grave, as he ordered her to do. Presently, I will catch her and
find out. Meanwhile, there is the hut all ready."

"Yes," said Wi, "the women who nurse the children in the cave can look
after this Sea-witch."

Pag shook his head doubtfully and remarked he did not think that any
woman would look after her, as the young ones would be jealous and the
old ones afraid.

"Especially," he added, "as you say that she is a witch."

"I say no such words," exclaimed Wi angrily, "Sea-witch I named her
because she came out of the sea and I know no other."

"Or because she is a witch," suggested Pag. "Still, let us try to
learn how she calls herself."

"Yes," said Wi, "it is well to do that, for if the women refuse her I
shall give her into your care."

"I have known worse tasks," answered Pag. Then he turned to the Sea-
witch who all this while watched them steadily, guessing that they
were talking of her, and clapped his hands as though to awake her,
which was not needful. Next he tapped Wi upon the breast and said,
"Wi." Then he tapped his own breast and said, "Pag." Several times he
did this, then tapped her arm and, pointing his finger at her, looked
a question.

At first she seemed puzzled, but after the third repetition of the
tappings and the names she understood, for she smiled, a quick, bright
smile, then, pointing at each of them, repeated, "Wi-i, Pa-ag."
Lastly, she set her finger on her breast and added, "La-lee-la."

They nodded and exclaimed together, "La-lee-la," whereon she nodded
back, and smiling again, repeated, "Laleela." Then they talked about
the canoe, and, taking her to it, showed her by signs that they
proposed to hide it in the cave, to which she seemed to assent.

So, having emptied the water out of it, they dragged the canoe to the
cave and, after Pag had examined it with much interest, for in this
strange and useful thing he saw a great discovery, they hid it beneath
piles of seaweed, burying the paddles, of which they found two,
beneath the sand of the cave. This done, Wi took her by the hand and
as best he could, showed her that she must accompany them. At first
she seemed afraid and hung back, but presently shrugged her shoulders,
sighed, looked imploringly at Wi as though to ask him to protect her,
and walked forward between them.

An hour or more later, Aaka, Moananga, Tana, and Foh, who were
watching on the outskirts of the village, being frightened because Wi
had not returned, caught sight of the three of them walking toward
them.

"Look!" cried Foh, as they came into view from round the spur of the
glacier mountain. "There are Father and Pag and a Beautiful One."

"Beautiful she is indeed," said Moananga, while his wife stared open-
eyed. But Aaka only exclaimed:

"You call her beautiful, and so she is, but I say that she is a witch
come to bring evil upon our heads."

Tana watched this tall stranger advancing with a gliding step across
the sands; noted her blue cloak and amber necklace, her yellow tresses
and, when she came nearer, her great dark eyes set in a face that was
pink as the lining of a shell. Then she said:

"You are right, Aaka--here comes a witch, if not of the sort you mean,
such a witch as you and I wish that we could be."

"Your meaning?" asked Aaka.

"I mean that this one will draw the hearts of all men after her and
earn the hate of all women, which is what everyone of us would do if
she could."

"So you say," said Aaka, "but I hold otherwise."

"Yet you will walk the same road as the rest of us, although you hold
your head sideways and pretend that it is different, you who tell us
that Wi is nothing to you and who treat him so badly, and yet always
watch him out of the corners of your eyes," said Tana, who had never
loved Aaka overmuch and was very fond of Wi.

Now Aaka would have answered sharply enough, but at this moment the
three came up to her. Foh dashed forward and threw his arms about his
father, who bent down and kissed him. Moananga uttered some word of
welcome, for he, who loved his brother, was glad to see him safe, and
Tana smiled doubtfully, her eyes fixed upon the stranger's marvellous
robe and necklace. Wi offered some greeting to Aaka, who answered:

"Welcome, Husband. We feared for you, and are glad to see you safe,
and your shadow with you"--here she glanced at Pag. "But who is this
third in a strange robe? Is it a tall boy whom you have found, or
perhaps a woman?"

"A woman, I think," answered Wi. "Study her and you will see for
yourself, Wife."

"It is needless, for doubtless you know, Husband. But if so, where did
you find her?"

"The story is long, Wife, but the heart of it is that I saw her
floating in a hollow log yesterday and, swimming out, brought her to
shore in the Bay of Seals."

"Is it so? Then where did you sleep last night? For know that we
feared for you."

"In the cavern at the Bay of Seals. At least the woman Laleela slept
there after I had brought her back to life."

"Indeed, and how did you learn her name?"

"Ask Pag," said Wi shortly. "He learned it, not I."

"So Pag's hand is in the business as in every other. Well, I hope that
this witch whom he has brought to you is not one of his gray wolves
turned to the shape of woman."

"I have said that I found her myself and carried her to the cave,
where Pag came to us this morning. Laugh if you will, but it is true,
as Pag can tell you."

"Doubtless Pag will tell me anything that you wish, Husband. Yet----"

Here Wi grew angry and exclaimed:

"Have done. I need food and rest, as does this stranger Laleela."

Then he walked forward with Laleela and Pag, who grinned as he went,
followed by the others, except Tana, who had run on ahead to tell the
people what had happened.




CHAPTER XII



THE MOTHER OF THE CAST-OUTS


The news spread fast--so fast that, when they reached the village,
even from the huts that were farthest off, folk were rushing to look
on this Witch-from-the-Sea whom Wi had found, for a witch they knew
she must be, because they of the tribe were the only people who lived,
or ever had lived, in the world. Of course, there was the Dead One who
stood in the ice with the Sleeper, but if he were a man, of which they
were not sure, doubtless he was one of their forefathers. Therefore
this was no woman whom Wi and Pag brought with them, but a ghost or a
spirit.

When they beheld her walking between the pair in such a calm and
stately fashion, like a stag indeed, as one of them said, and noted
her long yellow hair and the whiteness of her skin, her height, taller
by a head than any of them except Aaka, and her wonderful blue cloak
and other garments, the broidered sandals on her feet, the amber
necklace on her breast and everything else about her, not forgetting
her large, dark eyes, liquid and soft as a deer's yet somewhat
scornful, then, of course, they knew that they were right and that
this was in truth a witch, for no woman could look like that. They
stared, they gaped, they pointed; some of the children ran away--here
was proof of the worst--so did certain of the dogs that bounded
forward barking, but on seeing and smelling that at which they barked,
had turned tail and fled, as it was their custom to do from ghosts who
pelted them with invisible stones. So, a dirty, unkempt, half-clothed
crowd, they stared on while, guarded on either side like a captive by
Wi and Pag, Laleela glided through them, glancing now to right and now
to left with unchanging face and saying nothing.

At first they were silent; then, when she had passed and with her the
fear that she would shoot a curse at them with a glance of those dark
eyes, whispered debate broke out among them as, huddled together, they
followed on her footsteps.

"She is a very ugly witch," said one woman, "who has hair the colour
of sunlight and such long arms."

"I wish you were as ugly," answered her husband rudely, and thus the
argument began to rage, all the women and some of the old men holding
that she was vile to look on, while the young men, also the children
as soon as they grew used to the sight of her, thought her beautiful.

"Where will Wi take her?" asked one.

"Nowhere," answered Urk the Aged, "because she will vanish away," and
as the point was disputed, hastily invented a tale.

His grandfather, he said, had been told by /his/ grandfather that such
a witch as this, probably the same witch, since witches never grew
old, had visited the tribe, coming to the shore standing upon an ice
floe that was pushed by white bears with their noses. Knowing her for
what she was, the people had tried to kill her with stones, but when
they threw the stones, these fell back upon their heads and killed
them; also the bears attacked them. So she came ashore and sat in the
cave for six days singing, till the chief's son, a bold and dissolute
youth, fell in love with her and tried to kiss her, whereon she turned
him into a bear and, mounting on his back, went out into the sea again
and was no more seen.

Now some believed this tale and some did not, yet it worked well for
Laleela, since all made up their minds that they would be on the safe
side and neither try to stone nor to kiss this witch, lest they also
should be turned into bears or otherwise come to harm.

When they drew near to the cave, Aaka and Moananga overtook them, also
Tana, who, having spread the news, had rejoined her husband, very
breathless.

"What are you going to do with the witch, Husband?" Aaka asked,
looking at her sideways.

"I am not sure," he answered, then added in a hesitating voice,
"Perhaps you, Wife, would take her into our old hut, seeing that now
you sleep in the cave and are only there during the day."

"Not so," answered Aaka firmly. "Have I not enough troubles that I
should add a witch to them? Also, now that the winter is gone, I, who
hate that cave and the crying of the children, intend to sleep in the
hut again."

Wi bit his lip and stood thinking.

"Brother," broke in Moananga, "we have two huts side by side and in
the second one only keep our food. This sea-woman might live in it
and----"

He got no further for Tana cut him short:

"What are you saying, Husband?" she asked. "That hut is needed for the
dried fish, the firewood, and the nets, also by me for the cooking of
our food."

Then Wi walked on, leaving Moananga and Tana disputing. At the mouth
of the cave stood those women who tended the girl children that would
have been cast out to perish but were saved under Wi's new law. Some
of these were young and nursed the children at the breast, while
others were old and widows, who watched them when the nurses were not
there. Addressing them, Wi bade them choose one of their number to
wait upon and cook for this stranger from the sea. They heard, they
looked at the stranger, and then they ran away, into the cave or
elsewhere, so that Wi saw no more of them. Now Wi turned to Pag and
said:

"All things have happened as you told me, and the women refuse her
from the sea who is named Laleela and comes we know not whence. What
is to be done?"

Pag spat upon the ground; Pag stared upward with his one eye, Pag
looked at Laleela and at Wi. Then he answered:

"When a cord is knotted and cannot be unravelled, the best thing is to
cut it through and knit up the ends afresh. Take the witch into the
cave and look after her yourself, Wi, as Aaka and the others will not
receive her and she cannot be left to starve. Or if this does not
please you, kill her, if she can be killed."

"Neither of these things will I do," answered Wi. "Into the cave she
cannot come because of my oath. Starve she shall not, for who could
refuse food even to a dog that creeps hungry to the hut door? Kill her
I will not; it would be murder and bring the sky onto our heads."

"Yes, Wi; though if she were old and hideous the sky might remain
where it is, since, perhaps, for an ancient hag it would not fall. But
as all these things are so, what next?"

"This, Pag. Take her to the hut of Rahi who is dead. Command some of
my servants, men, not women, to make it ready for her, to light fire
and to furnish food from my store. Then go you and dwell in the
outhouse against the hut which was Rahi's workshop where he shaped
flints and the place where he kept his goods and traded in them, and
by day and night be the guard of this beautiful one whom the gods have
sent to us."

"So I am to become a witch's nurse. Well, I thought that would be the
end of the story," said Pag.



Thus it came about that Laleela the Beautiful One, who had risen from
the sea, went to dwell in the hut of Rahi, the dead miser, and there
was tended by Pag the dwarf, the hater of women. Without a word she
went, patiently submitting to all things as one who feels herself to
be swept along by the stream of Fate, and waits for it to bear her
whither it will, caring little how that journey might end. Pag, too,
went patiently to fulfil his strange and unaccustomed task of guard
and servant to one whom all the tribe held to be a witch, providing
for her needs, teaching her the customs of the people, and protecting
her from every harm. All these things he did, not only to please Wi,
but for a certain reason of his own. He, who saw farther than the
rest, except perhaps Wi himself, understood from the first that this
woman was no witch, but one of some people unknown to them. He saw
also that this unknown people had many arts which were strange to him,
and he desired to learn these arts, also where they lived and
everything else about them. Of what was the blue cloak made? How came
it that the stranger woman travelled across the sea in a hollowed log,
and how was that log made fit to bear her? What knowledge was hid in
her which she could not utter because her tongue was different? All
these things and many others Pag, who was athirst for wisdom, desired
to learn. Therefore, when Wi commanded him to be the guide and
companion of Laleela, the Risen-from-the-Sea, he obeyed without a
word.

Strange was the life of Laleela. There she sat in the hut and cooked
the food that Pag brought to her after new fashions that were unknown
to him. Or sometimes she walked abroad, followed and guarded by Pag,
taking note of the ways of the people, and after she had learned
these, up and down upon the beach with her eyes ever fixed upon the
sea, looking southward.

Or when the weather was bad, by signs she caused Pag to give her
dressed skins and sinews, also splinters of ivory from the tusks of
the walrus. These splinters she fashioned into needles, boring an eye
in the head of them with a sharp and heated flint, and threading the
sinews through them, began to sew in a fashion such as Pag had never
seen. Of this sewing he told the women of the tribe who, gathering in
front of the hut, watched her with amazement and later prayed Pag to
ask of the witch to make them needles like her own, which she did,
smiling, till there was no more ivory.

Then Pag, since he could not understand hers, began to teach her his
own language, which she learned readily enough, especially after Wi
came to join in the lessons. Within two moons, indeed, she could ask
for what she wanted and understand what was said to her, and within
four, being quick and clever, could talk the tongue of the people well
enough, if but slowly.

Thus, at last it came about that Wi and Pag learned as much of her
history as she chose to tell them which was but little. She said that
she was the daughter of a Great One, the ruler of a tribe that could
not be counted, who lived far away to the south. This tribe for the
most part dwelt in houses that were built upon tree-trunks sunk into
the mud in the waters of a lake, though some of them made their homes
upon the shores of the lake. Fish and game were their food; also they
cultivated certain herbs the seeds of which they gathered and ate,
after grinding them between stones and making them into a paste that
they cooked in clay heated with fire. They had implements also, and
weapons of war beautifully fashioned from flint, ivory, and the horns
of deer, and they wove cloth such as that of her garments from the
wool of tame beasts and dyed it with the juices of herbs, different
from those that bore the seeds which they ate.

Moreover, where they lived, although much rain fell, the sun shone
more brightly and the air was warmer than here in the home of the
tribe.

To all of these tales, gathered painfully word by word, Wi and Pag
listened with wonder, then at last Wi asked:

"How comes it, O Woman Laleela, that you left a land where you were so
great and where you lived in such plenty and comfort?"

"I left it because of one I hated and because of a dream," they
understood her to answer.

"Why did you hate this one and what was the dream?" asked Wi.

She paused a while as though to master his question, which she seemed
to be translating in her mind, then answered:

"The one I hated was my father's brother. My father was going away"
(by this she meant dying), "the brother wished to marry me and become
king. I hate him. Taking boat with much food, I row down river to the
sea at night."

Wi nodded to show that he understood, and asked again:

"But what of the dream?"

"The dream told me to go north," she replied, "a great wind blow me
north for days and days, till I fall asleep and you find me."

"Why did the dream tell you to go north?" asked Wi, with the help of
Pag.

She shook her head and answered with a set face:

"Ask of the dream, O Wi." Nor would she say any more.

From this time forward, Laleela began to learn the language of the
tribe very fast, so that soon she could speak it quite well, for she
was quick and clever, and Pag, who was also clever, taught her
continually. In the evenings, when his work was done, Wi would come to
her hut and, sitting there with Pag, he asked her many things about
her people and her country. In answer, she told him that it was much
warmer than his own, though there was a great deal of rain if little
snow; also that it lay a long way off, for she had been days and
nights in the boat driven by the gale before she fell asleep.

"Could you find your way home?" asked Wi.

"I think so," she answered, "because all the time I was seldom out of
the sight of the shore, and I marked the headlands and know the
mountains between which the river runs that leads to my country. I
mean that I should know all this if once I were out of the ice that
floats upon your sea. For it was after I passed the last headland and
came across open water into the ice, that I fell asleep."

"Then that headland cannot be so very far away," said Wi, "for if it
were, the cold would have been your death before I found you."

So this talk ended, but Wi thought much of it afterward, and often he
and Pag spoke together of the matter.

A little while later Laleela began to grow restless and to say that
she lacked work, she who had been a big woman among her people with
much to do.

Pag thought over her words for a while, then, one day when Wi was out
upon some business, he took her to the cave and showed her the little
girl infants which were nurtured there, telling her their story: how
they had been cast out to perish, or rather how they would have been
cast out had it not been for Wi's new law.

"Your mothers are very cruel," she said. "In my country, she who did
this would herself be cast out."

Then she took up some of the infants and, after looking them all over,
said that they were ill-tended as though by hirelings, and that two of
them were like to die.

"Several have died," said Pag.

Now, although they did not see him, Wi, having returned to the cave,
stood in the shadow watching them and listening to their talk.
Presently he stepped forward and said:

"You are right, Laleela, these babes need more care. After the first
few weeks their mothers neglect them, I think to show that they were
fated to die and that for this reason they wished to cast them out;
nor do the other women nurse them as they should. Yet I am helpless
who lack time to see to the business, and when I complain, find all
the women leagued against me. Will you help me with these children,
Laleela?"

"Yes, Wi," she answered, "though if I do so the women of your tribe
will become even more bitter against me than they are now. Why does
not your wife, Aaka, see to the matter?"

"If I walk one way, Aaka walks another," answered Wi sadly. "See now,"
he added, "I make you, Laleela, the Stranger-from-the-Sea, head nurse
of these babes, with authority to do what you will for their welfare.
This I will proclaim and with it my word that any who disobey you in
your duty shall be punished."

So Laleela, the Witch-from-the-Sea, became the mother of the cast-
outs, with other women set under her, and filled that office well.
There she would sit by the fire among these little creatures, feeding
them with such food as was known to this people, and in a low, sweet
voice singing songs of her own country that were very pleasant to
hear. At least, Wi thought them pleasant, for often he would come into
the cave and, seated in the shadows, would watch and listen to her,
thinking that she did not know he was there, though all the while she
knew this well enough. At length, finding out that she knew, he came
forward from the shadows, and, seated on a log of wood, would talk to
her, who by now understood his language.

Thus he learned much for, though she would not speak about herself, in
broken words she told him of her country and of how around it lived
many other peoples with whom they made war or peace, which astonished
him who had believed that the tribe were the only men upon the earth.
Also, she told him and Pag of such simple arts as they practised,
whereof these heard with wonder. But of why she fled from these folk
of hers, trusting herself to the sea in an open boat to be driven
wherever the winds would take her, she would or could tell him little.
Moreover, when he asked her whether she wished to return to her own
country, she answered that she did not know.

Then, after a while, Wi began to talk to her as a friend and to tell
her of his own troubles, though of Aaka he said nothing at all. She
listened, and at length answered that his sickness had no cure.

"You belong to this people, Chief," she said, "but are not of them.
You should have been born of my people."

"In every company one walks quicker than the rest," answered Wi.

"Then he finds himself alone," said Laleela.

"Not so, because he must return to guide the others."

"Then, before the hilltop is gained, night will overtake them all,"
said Laleela.

"If a man gain that hilltop, what can he do by himself?"

"Look at the plains below and die. At least it is something to have
been the first to see new things, and some day those who follow in his
footsteps will find his bones."

From the time that Wi heard Laleela speak thus, he began to love her
with his heart, and not only for her beauty's sake, as he had always
done since first he looked upon her in the boat.

Soon Aaka noted all this and laughed at him.

"Why do you not take the witch to yourself, as it is lawful that you
should do?" she asked, "for whoever heard of a chief with only one
wife, I shall not be jealous of her, and you have but a single child
left."

"Because she is far above me," he answered. "Moreover, I have sworn an
oath upon this matter."

"That for your oath!" said Aaka, snapping her fingers.

Yet, when she spoke thus, Aaka did not tell all the truth. As a wife
she was not jealous of Wi because of the customs of her people. Yet in
other ways she was very jealous, because in old times she and no other
had been his counsellor. Then she became bitter toward him because he
set their children before her, and left him to go his own way. Thereon
he turned to Pag and made a friend of him and hearkened to his words,
and for this reason she hated Pag. Now the Witch-from-the-Sea had come
with her new wisdom which he drank up as thirsty sand drinks up water,
and, behold! she hated her even more than she had done Pag, not
because she was fair but because she was clever.

Moreover, although he had liked Laleela well enough at first and
guarded her as her friend, Pag began to hate her also, and for the
same reason. The truth was that, notwithstanding his faults, which
were many, Wi was one of those men who is beloved by all who are near
to him, even when they do not understand him, so much so that those
who love him grow jealous of each other. But this Wi himself never
knew, any more than Pag did, that it was because he entered into the
hearts of all, reading them and their joys and sorrows, that he drew
the hearts of all after him.

So Wi made a friend of Laleela, telling her his troubles, and the
closer he drew to her, the farther away moved Aaka and Pag. Laleela
listened and advised and comforted, and being a woman, in her heart
wondered why he did not come still nearer, though whether or not she
would have been glad if he had, she did not know. At least, she would
have wondered, had not Wi told her of the new law that he had made,
under which, because women were so few among the tribe, no man might
take more than one wife; and of the oath that he had sworn that this
law he would keep himself, calling down upon his head the curse of the
Ice-gods whom he worshipped, should he break it, and not on his own
only, but also upon those of the people.

Now, Laleela did not believe in the Ice-gods because she was a Moon-
worshipper. Yet she did believe that a curse invoked in the name of
one god was just as terrible as that invoked in the name of another.
In fact, she put more faith in the curse than she did in the gods,
because, if the gods were invisible, always evil could be seen.
Therefore, she was not angry because Wi, who was so near to her in
mind, still remained as far away from her as though he were her
brother, or her father; nor did she try to draw him closer as, had she
wished, she knew well enough that she could do.

Meanwhile, it is to be told that this year all things went ill with
the tribe. There was no spring, and when the time of summer came the
weather remained so cold and sunless that always it felt as though
snow were about to fall, while the wind from the east was so bitter
that but little could grow. Moreover, only a few seals appeared from
the south to breed, not enough to furnish the food of the people or
their garments for the winter. With the ducks and other wild fowl, and
the fish, especially the salmon, the story was the same, so that had
it not been for the chance that four whales of the smaller sort,
coming in with a high tide, were left stranded in the bay, which
whales they cut up, preserving their flesh as best they could by
smoking it, and otherwise, there would have been little for them to
eat until the spring of another year.

At the cutting up of these whales, also at the collection of all food
that could be found, Wi worked very hard. Yet the people who had been
accustomed to plenty in the summer season, however tight they must
draw their belts in winter, murmured and walked about with sullen,
downcast faces, grumbling and asking each other why such trouble
should come upon them, the like of which even Urk the Aged could not
remember. Then a whisper began to run from ear to ear among them, that
it was because the beautiful Witch-from-the-Sea had brought evil on
them out of the sea, changing the face of heaven and driving away the
seals and the fowls and the fish that would not come where no sun
shone.

If she were gone, said the whisperers, the sun would shine again and
the beasts and birds would return and their stomachs would be full and
they could look up to the ridgepoles of their huts and see them
bending beneath the weight of the winter food, as they used to do in
the old days. Why could she not go back into the sea in her hollow
log, or if she would not, why could she not be cast out thither
living, or if need be--dead? Thus they said one to another by signs,
or speaking in hints, but as yet, whatever he might guess, Wi knew
nothing of their talk.




CHAPTER XIII



THE LESSON OF THE WOLF MOTHER


On a certain day Aaka saw Pag shambling past her hut, his eyes fixed
upon the ground.

"The wolf-man is sad," she said to herself, "and I know why he is sad.
It is because Wi up there at the cave is taking counsel with that
yellow-haired Laleela about big matters and asking no help from him."

Thus she thought, then called to Pag to come to her and offered him a
dish of food, mussels cooked in a shell. Pag, who was hungry, looked
at it, then said:

"Is it poisoned, Aaka?"

"Why do you ask that, Pag?" she answered.

"For two very good reasons," said Pag. "First, because I never
remember the day that you offered food to me out of kindness; and
secondly, because you hate me, Aaka."

"Both those things are true, Pag. Because I hate you I have never
offered you food. Yet one hate may be driven out by a larger hate. Eat
the mussels, Pag. They are fresh and good, for Foh brought them to me
this morning, though not so fat as they used to be in past years."

So Pag sat down and devoured that dish to the last mussel, smacking
his thick lips, for he was a large eater and food had been scarce of
late, because by Wi's command all that could be spared was being saved
for the coming winter.

Aaka, handsome, solemn, black-browed, deep-eyed, watched him as he
ate, and when he had finished, said:

"Let us talk."

"I wish there were some more mussels," said Pag, licking the shell,
"but if they are finished, then, if you have anything to say about
Laleela, talk on, for I am sure it is of her that you wish to speak."

"Now, as always, you are clever, Pag."

"Yes, I am clever; if I were not I should have been dead long ago.
Well, what of Laleela the Beautiful?"

"Oh! nothing much, except"--here she leant forward and whispered in
his ear--"that I wish you would kill her, Pag, or bring it about that
she is killed. This, being a man, or something like one, you can do;
whereas for us women it is impossible because it would be set down to
jealous hate."

"I understand," said Pag. "And yet, why should I kill Laleela whom I
like very much, and who knows more than all the rest of us put
together?"

"Because she has brought a curse upon the tribe," began Aaka, whereon
Pag stopped her with a wave of his big hand.

"You may think that, Aaka, or choose to say that you think it, but why
waste breath in telling such a tale to me, who know it to be a lie? It
is the skies and the season that have brought a curse upon the tribe,
not this fair woman from the sea, as the people believe."

"What the people believe is always true," said Aaka sullenly. "Or at
least they think that it is true, which is the same thing. Hearken. If
this witch is not killed, or driven away to die, or put in her hollow
log and sent out to sea so that we look on her no more, the people
will kill Wi."

"Worse things might happen to him, Aaka. For instance, he might live
on, hated, to see all his plans fail and all his friends turn against
him, as it seems some have done already," and he looked at her hard,
adding, "Come, speak your mind, or let me go."

"You know it," said Aaka, staring at the ground with her fine eyes.

"I think I know it," answered Pag. "I think that you are so jealous of
Laleela that you would like to be rid of her. Yet why are you jealous,
seeing that Wi by his new law has built a wall between himself and
her?"

"Talk not to me of Wi's foolish laws, for I hate them and all new
things," interrupted Aaka impatiently. "If Wi wishes more wives, let
him take them. That I could understand, for it is our custom. What I
do not understand is that, seated with her by the fire, he should make
a friend and counsellor of this witch, leaving me, his wife, standing
outside the hut in the cold while she is warm within; me--and you
also, Pag," she added slowly.

"I understand it well enough," said Pag. "Wi, being wise and in
trouble, seeks wisdom to help him out of his trouble. Finding a lamp
to his hand, he holds it up to search the darkness."

"Yes, and while he stares at this new light, his feet will fall into a
pit. Listen, Pag. Once I was Wi's counsellor. Then you, the wolf-man
and outcast whom he had saved, came and took him from me. Now another
has come and taken him from both of us. Therefore, we who were foes
should be friends and rid ourselves of that other."

"To find ourselves enemies again afterward. Well, there is something
in what you say, Aaka, for, if you can be jealous, so can I. Now what
you want me to do is to bring about the death of Laleela, either by
causing her to be killed or by driving her into the sea, which is the
same thing. Is that so?"

"Yes, Pag."

"You wish me to do this, not with my own hand, because you know that I
would never strike down with an ax or a stone one whom I have been set
to watch and who has always been kind to me, but by stirring up the
people against her."

"Perhaps that might be the better plan," said Aaka uneasily, "since it
is the people upon whom she brings the curse."

"Are you sure of that, Aaka? Are you sure that, if you leave her
alone, she will not bring a blessing on the people in the end, seeing
that wisdom is always strong, and that she has more of it than the
rest of us put together?"

"I am sure that she would be best out of our path," answered Aaka,
scowling, "and so would you be if you had a husband whom you loved and
who was being led aside."

"How should a wife show love to her husband, Aaka? I ask you because I
do not know. Is it by being always rough to him and finding fault with
all he does, and turning her back on him and hating all his friends?
Or is it by being kindly and loving and trying to help him in his
troubles, as such a one as Laleela would do? Well, who am I to talk of
such matters, of which as a wolf-man I can know nothing? Friendship
and its duties I understand, since even a dog may care for its master,
but love and its ways have never been mine to know. Still it is true
that, like you, I am jealous of this Laleela and should not be sorry
to see her back on the sea. Therefore I will think over all that you
have said, and afterward we will talk again. And now I will be going--
that is, if you have no more mussels, Aaka."

So, as there were no more mussels, Pag went, leaving Aaka wondering,
for she was not sure what he would do. She knew that he was jealous of
Laleela, who had taken his place in Wi's counsel, and therefore surely
he must wish to be rid of her, as she did. And yet Pag was very
strange and who could be certain? He was only a twisted dwarf, wolf-
suckled, they said, and yet he seemed to have the mind of a man, and
how could men be counted on, especially where a woman was concerned?
She might have bewitched him also. Notwithstanding his wrongs, he
might turn round and take her side. Now she almost wished she had not
paid so much heed to Pag's grumblings and opened her secret heart to
him; for, after all, Pag was a man, and how was it possible to trust
men, mad people, most of them, who thought quite differently from
women, and could be turned from their ends and advantage by all sorts
of silly reasons?

Pag went away, far away into the woods, for he knew that Wi was taking
counsel with Laleela and would not want him. At a certain place in the
woods, a secret place where the trees were very thick and, save
himself, no man had ever come, he cast himself down upon his face and
lay thinking. It had come to this that he hated Laleela, of whom he
used to be so fond, almost as much as Aaka did, and for the same
reason--because she had robbed him of the heart of Wi. If he caused
her to be killed, as Aaka had suggested, which he could do well enough
by stirring up the people against her, who thought that she had
brought a curse upon them, then he would be rid of her and Wi's heart
would come back to him, because his nature was such that he must have
someone to trust and to care for him, and the boy Foh was not yet old
enough for him to lean upon. Only, if ever he learned that he, Pag,
had loosed the stone that crushed Laleela, what then? He would kill
him. Nay, that was not Wi's way. He would look over his head and would
never see him more, even when he sat on the other side of the fire or
stared him in the face. Yes, Wi would despise him and in his heart
call him--dog.

Pag thought till he could think no more, for his mind went up and
down, first this way and then that, like a stick balanced on a stone
and shaken by the wind. At last a kind of savagery entered into him,
who grew weary of these reasonings, and wished that he were as the
beasts are who obey their desires and question not. He set his hand to
his big mouth and uttered a low howling cry. Thrice he uttered it, and
presently, far, far away in the distance, it was answered. Then Pag
sat silent and waited, and while he waited the sun went down and
twilight came.

There was a patter of feet stirring the dried pine needles. Then
between the trunks of two trees appeared the head of a gray wolf
glaring about it suspiciously. Pag howled again in a lower note, but
still the wolf seemed doubtful. It moved away till such wind as there
was blew from Pag to it, then sniffed thrice and leaped forward, and
after it ran a cub. It came to Pag, a great, gaunt creature, and,
rearing itself up, set its forepaws upon his shoulders and licked his
face, for it knew him again. Pag patted it upon the head, whereon the
old she-wolf sat herself down beside him as a dog might do; then with
low growls called to the young one to come near as though to make it
known to Pag, which it would not do, for man was strange to it. So Pag
and the wolf sat there together, and Pag talked to the wolf that many
years ago once had suckled him, while she sat still as though she
understood him, which she did not. All she understood was that by her
was one whom she had suckled.

"I have killed your kin, Gray Mother," said Pag to the she-wolf or
rather to himself, "if not all of them, for it seems that somewhere
you have found one to mate with you," and he looked toward the cub
lurking at a distance. "Yet you can forgive me and come at my call, as
of old, you that are a brute beast while I am a man. Then, if you, the
beast, can forgive, why should not I, the man, also forgive one who
has done me far smaller wrong? Why should I kill this Witch-from-the-
Sea, this Laleela, because for a while she has stolen the mind of one
whom I loved, being wiser than I am, and knowing more; being a very
fair woman also, and therefore armed with a net which I cannot cast.
Oh! old mother wolf, if you, the savage beast, can forgive and come at
my call because once you gave me of your milk, why cannot I forgive
who am a man?"

Then the great, gaunt she-wolf that understood nothing, save that he,
her fosterling, was troubled, licked his face again and leaned against
him who had planned the murder of all her kin and used her love to
decoy them to their doom.

"I will not kill Laleela or cause her to be killed," said Pag at
length, aloud. "I will forgive as this gray wolf mother of mine
forgives. If it is in Aaka's mind to kill her, let her work her own
evil, against which I will warn Laleela; yes, and Wi also. I thank you
for your lesson, Gray Mother, and now get you back to your cub and
your hunting."

So the old she-wolf went away, and presently Pag went also.



Next morning Pag sat at the mouth of the cave, watching Laleela at her
work among the cast-out female babes, going from one to another,
tending them, soothing them, talking to those who nursed them;
bravely, sweetly, gently; lovely to look on and in all her ways.

At length her tasks were finished and she came to Pag, sat herself
down beside him, glanced at the gray, cold sky, drew her robe closer
about her shoulders, and shivered.

"Why do you stop in this cold place, Laleela?" asked Pag, "you who, I
understand, come from a country where the sun shines and it is warm."

"Because I must, or so it would seem, Pag."

"Then would you go away if you could, Laleela?"

"I do not know, I am not sure, Pag. The great sea is a lonely place."

"Then why did you cross it to come hither, Laleela, you who tell us
that you are a chieftainess in your own land?"

"Because no woman can rule alone; always there must be one who rules
her, Pag, and I hate him who would have ruled me. Therefore I became a
death-seeker, but instead of finding death I found this place of ice
and cold and you who dwell here."

"And here once more you have become a chieftainess, Laleela, seeing
that you rule him who rules us. Where is Wi?"

"I think he has gone out to quell some trouble among the people, Pag.
There is always trouble among your people."

"Yes, Laleela; empty bellies and cold feet make bad tempers,
especially when men and women are afraid."

"Afraid of what, Pag?"

"Of the sunless skies, of lack of food, and of the cold, black winter
that draws on; also of the curse that has fallen upon the tribe."

"What curse, Pag?"

"The curse of the Witch-from-the-Sea, the curse of a fair woman called
Laleela."

"Why am I a curse-bearer, Pag?" she asked, staring at him open-eyed
and turning pale.

"I don't know, Laleela, seeing that, from the look of you, blessings
should come in your basket, not curses, you whose eyes are kind and
who do kind deeds with your hands. Yet the people hold differently,
because they believe that they are the only men and women on the earth
and think that therefore you must be a witch born of the sea. Also,
since you came, there has been nothing but misfortune: the sun has
hidden itself, those beasts and birds and fishes on which we feed have
kept away, and even the berries do not grow upon the bushes in the
wood, while now, in the early autumn, we hear winter marching toward
us, for on the mountain-tops already rain turns to ice, as it does in
the dark of the year. Yes, winter is always with us. Listen! There is
one of his footsteps," and he held up his hand while from the hills
behind them came the terrible rending sound of mighty masses of ice
being thrust forward by other new-formed masses that had gathered
above them.

"Can I command the sun?" asked Laleela sadly. "Is it my fault if the
season is cold and the seals and the fowls do not come, and it snows
on the mountain-tops when it ought to rain, and the rest?"

"The people think so," answered Pag, nodding his great head,
"especially since you have become Wi's chosen counsellor, which was
once my office."

"Pag, you are jealous of me," said Laleela.

"Yes, that is true: I am jealous of you, and yet I would have you
believe that I try to judge justly. I have been urged to kill you or
to bring about your death, which would be easy. But this I do not wish
to do because I like you too well, who are fairer and wiser than any
of us, and have shown us how to sew skins together, with other arts,
also because it would be wicked to put a stranger to death who has
come among us by chance, for well I know that you are no witch, but
just a stranger."

"To kill me! You have been urged to kill me?" she exclaimed, staring
at him with big, fearful eyes, as a seal does when it sees the club
above its head.

"I have said it, also that I will have no hand in this business, but
others may be found who think differently. Therefore, if you will
listen I will give you counsel to take or to leave."

"When the fox told the raven how to draw the bolt of its cage, the
raven listened, so says the tale of my country, but it forgot that the
hungry fox was waiting outside," answered Laleela, casting a doubtful
look at Pag. "Still, speak on."

"Have no fear," said Pag grimly, "since perhaps the counsel that I
shall give you, if taken, would leave this fox hungrier than he is
to-day. Hearken! You are in danger. Yet there is one way in which you
can save yourself. Become the wife of Wi which, although he hangs
round you with his eyes fixed upon your face, it is well known you are
not. None dare to touch Wi, who, if he is grumbled against, is still
beloved because it is known that all day and all night he thinks of
others, not of himself, and because he killed Henga and the great
toothed tiger and is mighty. Nor would any dare to touch one who was
folded in his cloak, though, while she is outside his cloak, it is
otherwise. Therefore, become his wife and be safe. Yes, I say this,
although I know that, when it happens, I, Pag, who love Wi better than
you do, if indeed you love him at all, shall be driven far from the
cave and mayhap shall go to live in the woods, where I can still find
friends of a sort, who will not turn on me even when they are mating,
or, at any rate, one friend."

"Marry Wi!" exclaimed Laleela. "I do not know that I wish to marry Wi;
I have never thought of it. Also, Wi is married already to Aaka. Also,
never has he sought to marry me. Had such been his desire, surely he
would have told me, who speaks to me of no such matters."

"Men do not always talk of what they desire, or women either, Laleela.
Has not Wi told you about his new laws?"

"Yes, often."

"And do you not remember that, because women are so few among us, the
first of these was that no man should have more than one wife?"

"Yes," said Laleela, dropping her eyes and colouring.

"Also, perhaps, he has told you that he called down a curse upon his
head and on all the tribe, if he broke that law."

"Yes," she said again in a low voice.

"Then perhaps it is because of this oath that Wi, although he is
always so close to you and sees no one else when you are near, has
never spoken to you of coming closer, Laleela."

"Nor would he, having sworn that oath, Pag."

Now Pag laughed hoarsely, saying:

"There are oaths and oaths. Some are made to be kept and some made to
be broken."

"Yes, but this one is coupled with a curse."

"Aye," said Pag, "and there comes the trouble. Choose now. Will you
make Wi marry you, as, being so beautiful and clever, doubtless you
can do if you wish, and take the chance of the curse that follows
broken oaths falling upon his head and yours and on the tribe, and be
happy until it falls or does not fall? Or will you not marry him and
continue as his counsellor with your hand in his but never round his
neck, until the wrath of the tribe strikes you, stirred up by your
enemies, of whom perhaps I am the worst--" here Laleela smiled--"and
you are killed or driven out to die? Or will you, perhaps, be pleased
to return to your own people, as doubtless you can do in that magical
boat of yours, or so declares Urk the Aged, who says that he knew a
great-grandmother of yours who was exactly like you."

Laleela listened, wrinkling her fair broad brow in thought. Then she
answered:

"I must think. I do not know which of these things I shall do, because
I do not know which of them will be the best for Wi and all the
people. Meanwhile, Pag, I thank you for your kindness to me, since the
moon led me here--you know I am a moon-worshipper, do you not, like
all my forefathers before me? If we should not talk again, I pray you
to remember that Laleela who came out of the sea thanks you for all
your kindness to her, a poor wanderer, and that, if she continues to
live upon the earth, often she thinks of you, and that if the moon
takes her and she has memory in the houses of the moon, that thence
she looks down and still thanks and blesses you."

"What for?" asked Pag gruffly. "Is it because I hate you who have
robbed me of the company and the trust of Wi, whom alone I love upon
the earth? Or is it because with one ear I have listened to Aaka, who
urges me to make an end of you? Do you thank me for these things?"

"No, Pag," she answered in her quiet fashion. "How can I thank you for
that which is not? I know that Aaka hates me, as it is natural that
she should, and therefore I do not blame her. But I know also that you
do not hate me; nay, rather that you love me in your own fashion, even
if I seem to have come between you and Wi, which, if you knew all, in
truth I have not done. You may have listened to Aaka with one ear,
Pag, but your finger was pressed hard upon the other; for you know
well that you never meant to kill me or to cause me to be killed, you
who in your goodness have come to warn me against dangers."

Now, hearing these gentle words, Pag stood up and stared at the kind
and beautiful face of her who spoke them. Then, seizing Laleela's
little hand, he lifted it to his thick lips and kissed it. Next he
wiped his one eye with the back of his hairy paw, spat upon the
ground, muttering something that might have been a blessing or an
oath, and shambled away, while Laleela watched him go, still smiling
sweetly.

But when he had gone and she knew that she was alone, she smiled no
longer. Nay, she sat down, covered her lovely eyes with her hands, and
wept.



That evening, when Wi returned, she made her report to him as to the
babes whom he had set in her care, speaking particularly of two who
were ailing that she thought needed watching and chosen food.

"What of it," asked Wi in his pleasant fashion, "seeing that you watch
them and give them their food, Laleela?"

"Oh! nothing," she answered, "except it is well that everything should
be known to two, since always one might be ill or forget. And that
puts me in mind of Pag."

"Why?" asked Wi, astonished.

"I do not know, and yet it does--oh! it was the thought about two. You
and Pag were one, and now you have become two, or so he thinks. You
should be kinder to Pag, Wi, and talk more to him, as it seems you
used to do. Hark! That sick baby is crying; I must go to it. Good-
night, Wi, good-night!"

Then she went, leaving him wondering, for there was something about
her manner and her words which he did not understand.




CHAPTER XIV



THE RED-BEARDS


Next morning, Laleela was missing. When Wi noticed this, as he was
quick to do, and inquired of her whereabouts, one of the women who
helped her in the care of the cast-out babes answered that the "Sun-
Haired-White-One," as she called her, after she had prepared their
food that morning, had told her that she needed rest and fresh air.
She added, said the woman, that she was going to spend that day in the
woods and that therefore none must trouble about or search for her, as
she would be back at nightfall.

"Did she say anything else?" asked Wi anxiously.

"Yes," answered the woman. "She spoke to me of what food should be
given to those two sick babes and at what hours, in case she should
make up her mind to spend the night in the woods, which, however, she
was almost sure she would not do. That was all."

Then Wi went away to attend his business, of which he had much in
hand, asking no more questions, perhaps because Aaka had come into the
cave and must have overheard them. Yet that day passed slowly for him,
and at nightfall he hurried home to the cave, thinking to find Laleela
there and to speak to her sharply, because she had troubled him by
going out thus without warning him so that he could cause her to be
guarded against dangers.

But when he came to the cave, as the day died, there was no Laleela.

He waited a while, pretending to eat his food, which he could not
touch. Then he sent for Pag. Presently Pag shambled into the cave, and
looking at Wi, asked:

"Why does the chief send for me, which he has not done for a long
while? It was but just in time, for, as I am never wanted nowadays, I
was about to start for the woods."

"So you, too, desire to wander in the woods," said Wi suspiciously,
and was silent.

"What is it?" asked Pag.

Then Wi told him all.

Now, as Pag listened, he remembered his talk with Laleela and was
disturbed in his heart. Still, of that talk he said nothing, but
answered only:

"There is no cause for fear. This Laleela of the sea is, as you know,
a moon-worshipper. Doubtless she has gone out to worship the moon and
to make offering and prayer to it, according to the rites of her own
people."

"It may be so," said Wi, "but I am not sure."

"If you are afraid," went on Pag, "I will go out to search for her."

Wi studied the face of Pag with his quick eyes, then answered:

"It comes into my mind that you, Pag, are more afraid than I am, and
perhaps with better reason. But whether this be so or not, nobody can
search for Laleela to-night because the moon is covered with thick
clouds and rain falls, and who can find a woman in the dark?"

Pag went to the mouth of the cave and looked at the sky, then came
back and answered:

"It is as you said. The sky is black; rain falls heavily. No man can
see where to set his foot. Doubtless Laleela is hid in some hole or
beneath thick trees, and will return at dawn."

"I think that she has been murdered, or has gone away, and that you,
Pag, or Aaka or both of you, know where and why she has gone," said Wi
in a muttering, wrathful voice, and glaring at him.

"I know nothing," answered Pag. "Perhaps she is at the hut of
Moananga. I will go to see."

He went, and a long while afterward returned with the rain water
running off him, to say that she was not in Moananga's hut, or in any
other that he could find, and that none had seen her that day.

All that night Wi and Pag sat on either side of the fire, or lay down
pretending to sleep, saying nothing but with their eyes fixed upon the
mouth of the cave. At length dawn came, a wretched dawn, gray and very
cold, although the rain had ceased. At the first sign of it, Pag
slipped from the cave, saying no word to anyone. Presently Wi
followed, thinking to find him outside, but he had vanished, nor did
any know where he had gone. Then Wi sent out messengers and inquired
for Laleela. These returned in due course but without tidings. After
this, he dispatched people to search for her, yes, and went himself,
although Aaka, who had come up to the cave, asked him why he should be
so disturbed because a witch-woman had vanished, seeing that it was
well known that this was the fashion of witch-women when they had done
all the ill they could.

"This one did good, not ill, Wife," said Wi, looking at the foundling
babes.

Then he went out to the woods, taking Moananga with him.

All that day he searched, as did others, but found nothing, and at
nightfall returned, weary and very sad, for it seemed to him as though
Laleela had torn out his heart and taken it with her. Also, that
night, one of the sick babes which she had been nursing died, for it
would not take its food from any hand but hers. Wi asked for Pag, but
no one had seen him; he, too, had vanished.

"Doubtless he has gone with Laleela, for they were great friends,
although he pretended otherwise," said Aaka.

Wi made no answer, but to himself he thought that perhaps Pag had gone
to bury her.

A second dawn came, and shortly after it Pag crept back to the cave,
looking very thin and hungry, like a toad when it crawls out of its
hole after winter is past.

"Where is Laleela?" asked Wi.

"I don't know," answered Pag, "but her hollow log has gone. She must
have dragged it down to the sea out of the seal cave at high tide,
which is a great deed for a woman."

"What have you been saying to her?" asked Wi.

"Who can remember what he said days ago?" answered Pag. "Give me food,
for I am as empty as a whelkshell upon the midden."

While Pag ate, Wi went down to the seashore. He did not know for what
reason he went, unless it was because the sea had taken Laleela from
him, as once it gave her to him, and therefore he wished to look upon
it. So there he stood, staring at the gray and quiet sea, till
presently, far away upon the edge of the mist that covered it, he saw
something moving.

A fish, he thought to himself, but I don't know what kind of fish,
since it stays upon the top of the water, which only whales do, and
this fish is too small to be a whale.

There he stood staring idly and caring nothing what sort of fish it
might be, till presently he noted, although it was still so far away
and so hidden by mist wreaths, that the thing was not a fish at all.
Yet it reminded him of something. Of what did it remind him? Ah! he
knew--of that hollow log in which Laleela had drifted to this shore.
But it was not drifting now; it was being pushed beachward by one who
paddled, one who paddled swiftly.

The gathering light fell on this paddler's hair, and he saw that it
glinted yellow. Then Wi knew that Laleela was the paddler and ran out
into the sea up to his middle. On she came, not seeing him until he
hailed her. Then she paused breathless and the canoe glided up to him.

"Where have you been?" he asked angrily. "Know that I have been much
troubled about you."

"Is it so?" she gasped, looking at him in an odd fashion. "Well, we
will talk of that afterward. Meanwhile, learn, Wi, that many people
descend on you, coming in boats like this, only larger. I have fled
away from them to warn you."

"Many people!" said Wi. "How can that be? There are not other people,
unless they be yours that you have brought upon us."

"Nay, nay," she answered, "these are quite different; moreover, they
come from the north, not from the south. To shore now, and quickly,
for I think that they are very fierce."

Then she paddled on beachward, Wi wading alongside of her.

They reached the shore, where some who had seen the canoe had
gathered, among them Moananga and Pag. It was dragged upon the sand,
and Laleela climbed out of it stiffly, helped by Wi. Indeed, she sank
down upon the sand as though she were very tired.

"Tell us your story," said Wi, his eyes fixed upon her as though he
feared lest she should vanish away again.

"It is short, Chief," she answered. "Being weary of the land, I
thought that I would float upon the sea for a while. Therefore I took
my boat and paddled out to sea for my pleasure."

"You lie, Laleela," said Wi rudely. "Still, go on."

"So I paddled far, the weather being calm, toward the end of the great
point of rocks which lies out yonder, though perhaps you have never
seen it," she continued, smiling faintly.

"There, last evening at the sundown, suddenly I saw a great number of
boats coming from the north and rounding the point of rock as though
they were following the shore line. They were big boats, each of them
holding many men, hideous-looking and hairy men. They caught sight of
me and yelled at me with harsh voices in a talk I did not understand.
I turned and fled before them. They followed after, but the night came
down and saved me. Sometimes, however, the moon shone out between the
clouds and they caught sight of me again. Then at last her face was
covered up and I paddled on through the mist and darkness, having seen
the outline of these hills and knowing which way to row. I think that
they are not far off. I think that they will attack you and that you
must make ready at once. That is all I have to say to you."

"What do they come for?" asked Wi, amazed.

"I do not know," answered Laleela, "but they looked thin and hungry.
Perhaps they seek food."

"What must we do?" asked Wi again.

"Fight them, I suppose," said Laleela; "fight them and drive them
off."

Now Wi looked bemused, for this thought of folk fighting against each
other was strange to him. He had never heard of such a thing, because
the tribe, until Laleela came, believed themselves to be alone in the
world and therefore had no need of defence against other men. Then Pag
spoke, saying:

"Chief, you have fought wild beasts and killed them; you fought Henga
and killed him. Well, it seems that this is what you and all of us
must do against this people who attack us. If Laleela is right, either
they will kill us, or we must kill them."

"Yes, yes, it is so," said Wi, still bemused, then added, "Let Wini-
wini summon all the tribe and bid them bring their weapons with them.
Yes, and let others go with him, that they may hear more quickly."

So certain of those who had gathered there on the beach departed,
running their hardest. When they had gone, Wi turned to Pag and asked:

"What shall we do, Pag?"

"Do you seek counsel of me while Laleela stands there?" answered Pag
bitterly.

"Laleela, a woman, has played her part," said Wi. "Now men must play
theirs."

"It always comes to that in the end," said Pag.

"What can we do?" asked Wi.

"I don't know," answered Pag. "Yet low tide draws on, and at low tide
there is but one entrance to this bay, through the gap in the rocks
yonder. These strangers will not know this, and if they come on
presently, their boats will be stranded, or only a few of them will
get through the gap. These we must fight, also any who remain upon the
reef. But what do I know of fighting, who am but a dwarf? There is
Moananga your brother, one who is strong and tall and brave. Let him
be captain and manage the fighting, but do you, Wi, keep behind it to
look after the people, who will want you; or, if need be, to fight any
of these strangers who get on shore."

"Let it be so," said Wi. "Moananga, I make you captain. Do your best
and I will do my best behind you."

"I obey you," said Moananga simply. "If I am killed and you live, look
after Tana and see that she does not starve."

Just then, summoned by the furious trumpetings of Wini-wini and by
rumours that flew from mouth to mouth, the people began to run up,
each of them armed in a fashion, some with stone axes, some with
flint-headed spears and knives, some with stakes hardened in the fire,
or with slings.

Wi addressed them, telling them that devils who came from the north
floating on the sea, were about to attack them, and that they must
fight them unless they wished to be killed with their wives and
children; also that Moananga would direct them. Then there arose a
great noise, for the women who had run up with the men began to wail
and cling to them, till in the end these were driven away. After this
Hou the Unstable began to argue loudly, saying that Laleela was a
liar; that there were no men in boats and that therefore there was no
need for all this making ready. Also Whaka, the Bird-of-Ill-Omen,
declared that, if there were such men, there was no use trying to
fight against them, because, if they did, they would all be killed,
since men in boats must be very strong and clever. So the only thing
to do was to run away at once and hide in the woods.

This counsel seemed to move many; indeed, some departed at once.
Noting this, Wi went up to Whaka and knocked him down with a blow of
his fist. Also he strove to serve Hou in the same way, but seeing him
come, Hou escaped. After this, he called out that the next man who ran
he would catch and brain with his ax, whereon all the rest stayed
where they were. Still Hou went on talking from a distance, till
presently there was a shout--for there on the misty surface of the sea
appeared a great number of large canoes, manned, some of them, by as
many as eight or ten paddlers. These canoes rowed on toward the bay,
knowing nothing of the falling tide or of the reef of rocks. So it
happened that presently six or eight of them struck these rocks upon
which waves broke, and then overturned, throwing the men in them into
the water, where some were drowned. But the most of them reached the
rocks to the right and stood upon them, jabbering in loud voices to
their companions in the other boats outside the reef, who jabbered
back to them.

At length these men paddled forward gently, which, the sea being calm,
they could do well enough, not to the gap where those boats that went
first had been overturned, but to the rocks upon its right side, on
which many of them landed, leaving some in each canoe to hold on to
the seaweed that grew upon the rocks. When they had gathered there to
the number of a hundred or more, they began to talk, waving their long
arms and pointing to the shore with the spears they carried that
seemed to be tipped with walrus ivory or white stone.

Wi, watching them from the beach, said to Pag at his side:

"Surely these strangers are terrible. See how tall and strong they
are, and behold their skins covered with fur and their red hair and
beards. I think that they are not men but devils. Only devils could
look like that and travel about without women or children."

"If so," answered Pag, "they are very hungry devils, for that big
fellow who seems to be their chief, opens his mouth and points down
it, also at his stomach, and then waves his hand toward the shore,
telling the others thus that there they will find food. Likewise, they
are devils who can drown," and he nodded toward the corpses of one or
two of them who had been in those canoes that were overset, which
corpses now were rolling to and fro in the shallow water. "For the
rest," he added after a pause, "wives can always be stolen," and he
glanced toward the women of the tribe, who were gathered in little
companies behind them, all talking together at once, or screaming and
beating their breasts, while the children clung to them terrified.

"Yes," said Wi. Then he thought for a moment and called certain men to
him.

"Go," he said, "to Urk the Aged, and bid him lead the women, the
children, and the old people to the woods and hide them there, for how
this business will end, I do not know, and they will be better far
away."

The men went, and there followed much screaming and confusion. Some of
the women began to run toward the woods; others would not move; while
others threw their arms about their husbands and tried to drag these
away with them.

"Unless this wailing stops, soon the hearts of the men will melt like
blubber over a fire," said Pag. "Look. Some of them are creeping away
to the women."

"Go you and drive them to the woods," said Wi.

"Nay," answered Pag, "I who never liked the company of women overmuch
stay where I am."

Now Wi took another counsel. Seeing Aaka standing at a distance
between the women and the men, or most of them, whom Moananga was
marshalling as best he might, he called to her. She heard and came to
him, for Aaka did not lack courage.

"Wife," he said, "those red devils are going to attack us, and we must
kill them or be killed."

"That I know," answered Aaka calmly.

"It is best," went on Wi, looking down and speaking in a rapid voice,
"that the women should not see the fighting. I ask you, therefore, to
lead them all to the woods and hide them away, together with the old
people and children and those who have run there already. Afterward
you can return."

"What is the use of returning to find our men dead? It is better that
we should stay here and die with them."

"You would not die, Aaka. Those Red Wanderers may want wives. At
least, you would not die at once, though in the end they might kill
and eat you. Therefore I command you to go."

"Surely the Witch-from-the-Sea who guided the Wanderers to attack us
should go also before she works more treachery," answered Aaka.

"She did not guide them; she fled before them," exclaimed Wi angrily.
"Still, take her with you if you will, and Foh also. Only drive back
any men. Go now, I command you."

"I obey," said Aaka, "but know, Husband, that, although we have grown
away from each other, if you die, I die also, because once we were
close together."

"I thank you," answered Wi. "Yet, if that should happen, I say--live
on, rule the tribe, and build it up afresh."

"Of what use are women without men?" replied Aaka, shrugging her
shoulders.

Then she turned to walk away, and as she went, Wi saw her wipe her
eyes with the back of her hand. She reached the women and cried out
something to them in a fierce voice, repeating it again and again,
till presently they began to move away with the aged, dragging the
children by the hand or carrying them, so that at last the tumult died
and the sad company vanished among the first of the trees.

All this while the Red-Beards had been jabbering together, making
their plans. At last these seemed to be settled, for by the help of
their boats a number of them crossed the mouth of the bay and gathered
upon the line of rocks to the left that now, at low tide, also stood
bare above the water. Others, too, in some of the boats set themselves
in order between these jaws of rock, as though preparing to paddle
toward the shore.

Pag noted this and cried out exultingly:

"That they cannot do, for their boats will overset upon the reefs that
lie beneath the waves, and they will be drowned in the deep holes
between, like those fellows," and he pointed to the bodies rolling
about in the surf.

But such was not the purpose of the red-haired men, as presently he
was to learn.

As he spoke Wi heard the crunching of little shells in the sand behind
him and looked round to see who came. Behold, it was Laleela, clad in
her blue cloak and holding a spear in her hand.

"Why are you here?" he asked angrily. "Why have you not gone to the
woods with the other women?"

"Your orders were to the tribe," she replied in a quiet voice. "I am
not of the tribe, so I hid in a hut till all were gone. Be not wrath,
Chief," she went on, in a gentle voice, "for I, who have seen other
tribes and their fightings, may be able to give good counsel."

Now he began to speak angry words to her and bid her begone, of which,
standing at his side, she took no heed but only stared out at the sea.
Then, suddenly, with a cry of "I thought it!" she leapt in front of
Wi, whose face was shoreward, and next instant staggered back, falling
into his arms as he turned. He stared at her, as did Pag, and lo! they
saw that in her cloak stood a little spear with feathers on it which
had struck her just above the breast.

"Pull it out, Pag," she said, recovering her feet. "It is an arrow,
which other peoples use, and well was it for me that this cloak is so
good and thick."

"Had you not sprung in front of me, that little spear would have
pierced me," exclaimed Wi, staring at her.

"It was by a chance," answered Laleela with a smile.

"You lie," said Wi, at which she only smiled again and drew the cloak
more closely about her. Aye, while Pag pulled she still smiled, though
he noted that her lips turned pale and twitched. At length the arrow
came out, and he noted something else: namely, that on its bone barb
there was blood and a little piece of flesh, though, being wise, of
this he said nothing.

"Lie down, Chief," said Laleela, "there, behind that rock; and you
also, Pag, for so you will be safer. I also will lie down," and she
did so. "Now hearken to me," she went on. "Those Red-Beards, or some
of them, have bows and arrows, as we have just learned, and their plan
is to shoot at you from the boats until the tide is quite low, and
then to climb along both lines of rock and attack you."

At this moment Moananga came up and was also made to lie down.

"Perhaps," said Wi, "and if so, we had better draw out of the reach of
the little spears."

"That is what they want you to do," answered Laleela, "for then they
will climb along the lines of rock quietly and without hurt. I have
another counsel, if it pleases you to hear it."

"What is it?" said Wi and Moananga together.

"This, Chief: You and all the people know those rocks and where the
deep water holes are between them, since from childhood you have
gathered shellfish there. Now, divide your men into two companies, and
do you command one while Moananga commands the other. Clamber along
those rocks to the right and left with the companies and attack the
Red-Beards on them, for, when they see you coming so boldly, some of
them will get into the boats. The others you must fight and kill; nor
will those in the boats who have bows and arrows be able to shoot much
at you, for fear lest they should hit their own people. Do this, and
swiftly."

"Those are good words," said Wi. "Moananga, do you take the left line
of rocks with half the men, and I will take the right with the rest.
And, Laleela, I bid you remain here, or fly."

"Yes, I will remain here," said Laleela, rather faintly and turning on
her face, so that none should see the stain of blood soaking through
her blue robe. Yet, as they went, she cried after them:

"Bid your people take stones, Wi and Moananga, that they may cast them
into the boats and break their bottoms."

Coming to the men of the tribe who stood there in knots looking very
wretched and afraid, most of them, as they stared at the hairy Red-
Beards upon the rocks and in their boats, Wi addressed them in a few
hard words, saying:

"Yonder Red-Beards come from I know not whence. They are starving,
which will make them very brave, and they mean to kill us, every one,
and to take first our food and then our women, if they can find them;
also perhaps to eat the children. Now, we count as many heads as they
do, perhaps more, and it will be a great shame to us if we allow
ourselves to be conquered, our old people butchered, our women taken,
and our children eaten by these Red Wanderers. Is it not so?"

To this question the crowd answered that it was, yet without
eagerness, for the eyes of most of them were turned toward the woods,
whither the women had gone. Then Moananga said:

"I am chief in this matter. If any man runs away, I will kill him at
once if I can. And if not I will kill him afterward."

"And I," added Pag, "who have a good memory, will keep my eye fixed on
all and remember what every man does, which afterward I will report to
the women."

Then the force was divided into two companies, of whom the bravest
were put in the rear to prevent the others from running away. This
done, they began to scramble along the two horns of rock that enclosed
the little bay, wading round the pools that lay between the rocks, for
they knew where the water was deep and where it was shallow.

When the Red-Beards saw them coming, they made a howling noise,
wagging their heads so that their long beards shook, and beating their
breasts with their left hands. Moreover, waving their spears they did
not wait to be attacked, but clambered forward down the rocks, while
those of them in the boats shot arrows, a few of which hit men of the
tribe and wounded them.

Now, at the sight of blood flowing from their brothers whom the arrows
had struck, the tribe went mad. In an instant they seemed to forget
all their fears; it was as though something of which neither they nor
their fathers had thought for hundreds of years came back to their
hearts. They waved their stone axes and flint-pointed spears, they
shouted, making a sound like to that of wolves or other wild beasts;
they gnashed their teeth and leapt into the air, and began to rush
forward. Yet, moved by the same thought, Wi and Moananga made them
stay where they were for a while, for they knew what would happen to
the Red-Beards.

This happened: These Red-Beards, also leaping forward, slipped upon
the seaweed-covered rocks and fell into the pools between them. Or, if
they did not fall, they tried to wade these pools, not knowing which
were deep and which were shallow, so that many of them went under
water and came up again spluttering. Then Wi and Moananga screamed to
the tribe to charge.

On they went, bounding from rock to rock, as they could do readily
enough who from boyhood had known every one of these stones and where
to set their feet upon them. Then, coming to the pools into which the
Red-Beards had fallen, they attacked them as they tried to climb out,
breaking their skulls with axes and stones and thus killing a number
without loss to themselves.

Now, the Red-Beards scrambled back to the ends of the two horns of
rock, purposing to make a stand there, and here the tribe attacked
them, led by Wi and Moananga. That fight was very hard, for the Red-
Beards were strong and fierce, and drove their big, ivory-pointed
spears through the bodies of a number of the tribe. Indeed, it looked
ill for the tribe, until Wi, with his bright ax that Pag had made,
that with which he slew Henga, killed a great fellow who seemed to be
the chief of the Red-Beards, cutting his head in two so that he fell
down into the water. Seeing this, the Red-Beards wailed aloud and,
seized by a sudden panic, rushed for the boats into which they began
to scramble as best they could. Then Wi and Moananga remembered the
counsel of Laleela and gave commands to the tribe to throw the
heaviest stones they could lift into the boats. This they did,
breaking the bottoms of most of them, so that water flowed in and they
sank.

The men in the boats swam about till they drowned or tried to come to
the shore, where they were met with spears or stones, so that they
died--every one of them. The end of it was that but five boatloads got
away, and these rowed out to sea and were never seen again. That
night, a wind blew in which they may have foundered; or, perhaps,
being so hungry, they starved upon the sea. At least the tribe saw no
more of them. They came none knew whence, and they went none knew
whither. Only the most of them remained behind in the pools of the
rocks or sunk in the deep sea beyond the rocks.

Thus ended the fight, the first that the tribe had ever known.




CHAPTER XV



WI KISSES LALEELA


When all was over, Wi and Moananga, having come together on the shore,
bearing the hurt with them, counted their losses. They found that in
all twelve men had been killed and twenty-one wounded, among whom was
Moananga, who was hit in the side with an arrow, though not badly. Of
the Red-Beards, however, more than sixty had died, most of them by
drowning; at least, this was the number that they found after the next
high tide had washed up the bodies. There may have been more that were
taken out to sea.

"It is a great victory," said Moananga, as Wi washed the wound in his
side with salt water, "and the tribe fought well."

"Yes," answered Wi, "the tribe fought very well."

"Yet," interrupted Pag, "it was the Witch-from-the-Sea who won the
fight by her counsel, for I think that, had we waited for the Red-
Beards to attack us on the beach, it would have ended otherwise. Also
it was she who taught us to throw stones into the boats."

"That is true," said Wi. "Let us go to thank her."

So they went, all three of them, and found Laleela lying where they
had left her behind the rock, but face downward.

"She has fallen asleep, who must be very weary," said Moananga.

"Yes," said Wi. "Yet it is strange to sleep when death is so near,"
and he looked at her doubtfully.

Pag said nothing, only, kneeling down, he thrust his long arms
underneath Laleela and turned her over onto her back. Then they saw
that the sand beneath her was red with blood and that her blue robe
was also red. Now Wi cried aloud and would have fallen had not
Moananga caught him by the arm.

"Laleela is dead!" he said in a hollow voice. "Laleela, who saved us,
is dead."

"Then I know one who will be glad," muttered Pag. "Still, be not so
sure."

Then he opened her robe, and they saw the wound beneath her breast,
which still bled a little. Pag, who was skilled in the treating of
hurts, bent down and examined it, and while he did so, Moananga said
to Wi:

"Do you understand, Brother, that the little spear gave her this wound
while she was talking to us, and that she hid it so that none of us
knew she had been pierced?"

Wi nodded like one who will not trust himself to speak.

"I knew well enough," growled Pag, "I who drew out the arrow."

"Then why did you not tell us?" asked Moananga.

"Because if Wi had known that this Witch-from-the-Sea was smitten in
the breast, the heart would have gone out of him and his knees would
have become feeble. Better that she should die than that the heart of
our chief should have turned to water while the Red Wanderers gathered
to kill us."

"What of the wound?" asked Wi, paying no heed to this talk.

"Be comforted," answered Pag. "Although she has bled much, I do not
think that it is deep, because this thick cloak of hers almost stopped
the little spear. Therefore, unless the point was poisoned, I believe
that she will live. Stay now and watch her."

Then he shambled off toward certain bushes and sea herbs that grew
upon the beach, and searched among them till he found one that he
sought. From this he plucked a number of leaves which he put into his
mouth and chewed between his great teeth. He returned and, taking the
green pulp from his mouth, thrust some of it into Laleela's wound and
the rest into that of Moananga.

"It burns," said Moananga, wincing.

"Aye, it burns out poison and staunches blood," answered Pag as he
covered Laleela with her cloak.

Then Wi seemed to awake from the deep thoughts into which he had
fallen, for, stooping down, he lifted Laleela in his arms as though
she were a child and strode away with her toward the cave, followed by
Pag and Moananga, also by certain of the tribe who waved their spears
and shouted. By this time the women were returning from the woods, for
some of the younger and more active of them had climbed tall trees
and, watching all, though from far away, had made report to those
below, who, learning that the Red Wanderers had fled or been killed,
trooped back to the huts, leaving the aged and the children to follow
after.

The first of all came Foh, running like a deer.

"Father!" he cried in an angry voice as he met Wi, "am I a child that
I should be dragged off to woods by women when you are fighting?"

"Hush!" said Wi, nodding his head at the burden in his arms, "hush, my
son. We will talk of these matters afterward."

Then appeared Aaka, calm-faced and stately, although, if the truth
were known, she had run also and with much swiftness.

"Welcome, Husband," she said. "They tell me that you have conquered
those Red-Beards. Is it true?"

"It seems so, Wife--at least they have been conquered. Afterward I
will tell you the tale."

As he spoke, he strove to pass her by, but she stepped in front of him
and asked again:

"If that Witch-from-the-Sea has been killed for her treachery, why do
you carry her in your arms?"

Wi gave no answer, for anger made him speechless. But Pag laughed
hoarsely and said:

"In throwing stones at the kite you have hit the dove, Aaka. The
Witch-from-the-Sea whom Wi clasps upon his breast has not died for
treachery. If she be dead, death came upon her in saving Wi's life,
since she leapt in front of him and received into her bosom that which
would have pierced him through, and this not by chance."

"Such things might have been looked for from her, who is ever where
she should not be. What did she among the men--she who ought to have
accompanied the women?" asked Aaka.

"I don't know," answered Pag. "I only know that she saved Wi's life by
offering up her own."

"Is it so, Pag? Then it is his turn to save hers, if he can; or to
bury her if he cannot. Now I go to tend the wounded of our own people.
Come with me, Tana, for I see that Moananga's hurt has been dressed
and that we are not wanted here," and tossing her head, she walked
away slowly.

But Tana did not follow her, being curious to learn the tale of
Laleela; also to make sure that Moananga had taken no harm.



Wi bore Laleela into the cave and laid her down upon the bed where she
slept near to the cast-out children. Tana took Moananga away, and Pag
went to make broth to pour down Laleela's throat, so that Wi and
Laleela seemed to be left alone, though they were not, for the women
who nursed the cast-outs watched them from dark places in the cave. Wi
threw fur wrappings over her, and taking her hand, rubbed it between
his own. In the warmth of the cave, where fire still burned, Laleela
woke up and began to talk like one who dreams.

"Just in time! Just in time," she said, "for I saw the arrow coming,
though they did not, and leapt into its path. It would have killed
him. If I saved him, all is well, for what matters the life of a
stranger wanted of none, not even of him?"

Then she opened her eyes and, looking upward, by the light of the fire
saw the eyes of Wi gazing down upon her.

"Do I live," she murmured, "and do you live, Wi?"

Wi made no answer; only he bent his head and kissed her on the lips,
and although she was so weak, she kissed him back, then turned away
her head and seemed to go to sleep. But asleep or awake, Wi went on
kissing her, till Pag came with the broth, and after him the women
with the cast-out children appeared from their hiding places,
chattering like starlings before they flight in autumn.

Presently Wi looked up from his task of watching Laleela who, having
swallowed the broth, seemed to have fallen asleep, and saw Aaka
standing by the fire and gazing at them both.

"So the Witch lives," she said in a low voice, "and has found a nurse.
When are you going to marry her, Wi?"

Wi rose and came to her, then asked:

"Who told you that I was going to marry her? Have I not sworn an oath
upon this matter?"

"Your eyes told me, I think, Wi. What are oaths against such service
as she has done you?--though it is strange that I should live to learn
that Wi made use of a woman's breast as a shield in battle."

"You know the truth of that," he answered.

"I only know what I see who pay no heed to words; also what my heart
tells me."

"And what does your heart tell you, Wife?"

"It tells me that the curse which this witch has brought upon us has
but begun its work. She goes out to sea in her hollow log and returns
leading a host of Red Wanderers. You fight these Wanderers and drive
them away, for a time. Yet many of the tribe are dead and wounded.
What she will do next I do not know, but I am sure she has worse gifts
in her bag. For I tell you that she is a witch who has been staring at
the moon and talking with spirits in the air, and that you would have
done well to leave this darling of yours to die upon the beach, if die
she can."

"Some wives might have held that these are hard words to use of one
who has just saved their man from death," said Wi. "Yet if you think
so ill of her, kill her, Aaka, for she is helpless."

"And bring her curse upon my head! Nay, Wi, she is safe from me."

Then, able to bear no more, Wi turned and left the cave.

Outside on the gathering ground he found much tumult for here the
bodies of the dead had been carried and everybody was come together.
Women and children who had lost their husbands or fathers wailed,
making a great noise after the fashion of the tribe; men who had been
wounded but could still walk moved about, showing their hurts and
seeking praise or comfort, while others, who had come through
unscathed, boasted loudly of their deeds in the great fight with the
Red-Beards, the devils who came out of the sea.

Here and there were groups, and in the centre of each group a speaker.
In one of them Whaka the Bird-of-Ill-Omen was telling his hearers that
these Red-Beards whom they had fought and conquered were but the
forerunners of a great host which would descend upon them presently.
At a little distance, Hou the Unstable, while rejoicing in the victory
of the tribe, declared that such fortune was not to be trusted and
that therefore the best thing to do would be that they should all run
away into the woods before it turned against them. Meanwhile, Wini-
wini the Shudderer went from corpse to corpse followed by the
mourners, blowing his horn over each and pointing out its wounds,
whereon all the mourners wailed aloud in chorus.

The most of the people, however, were collected round Urk the Aged,
who, his white beard wagging upon his chin, mumbled to them through
his toothless jaws that now he remembered what he had long forgotten,
namely that his great-grandfather had told his, that is Urk's,
grandfather, that his, Urk's great-grandfather's great-grandfather,
had heard from his remote ancestors that once just such Red-Beards had
descended on the tribe after the appearance among them of a Witch-
from-the-Sea very much like to the lady Laleela who was beloved of Wi
their chief, as was known of all, for had not he, Wi, been seen
kissing her?

"And what happened then?" asked a voice.

"I cannot quite remember," answered Urk, "but I think that the Witch
was sacrificed to the Ice-gods, after which no more Red-Beards came."

"Do you mean that Laleela the White Witch should also be sacrificed to
the Ice-gods?" asked the voice.

Confronted with this problem, Urk wagged his long beard, then answered
that he was not sure, but he thought that, on the whole, it might be
wise to sacrifice her, if the consent of Wi could be obtained.

"For what reason?" asked the voice again, "seeing that she warned us
of the coming of the Red-Beards, and afterward took into her own
breast the little spear that was aimed at Wi?"

"Because," answered Urk, "after a great event, such as has happened,
the gods always seek a sacrifice, and, as none of the Red-Beards has
been taken alive, it would be better to offer up to them the Witch-
from-the-Sea, who is a stranger, rather than any one of our own
people."

Now Moananga, who was among those that heard this speech, limped up to
Urk, for the wound in his side made him walk stiffly, and seizing his
beard with one hand, slapped him in the face with the other.

"Hearken, old vile one who call yourself a wizard," he said. "If any
should be sacrificed, I think that it is you, because you are a liar
who feed the people upon false tales of what has never been. Well you
know that this Laleela whom you urge us to kill is the noblest of
women, and that, had it not been for her, Wi, my brother and our
chief, would now be dead; indeed, that we should all be dead, since
she warned us of the coming of the Red Wanderers. She it was, too,
who, after the little spear had found her breast, the spear she bade
Pag drag out with her flesh upon it, saying no word, as I who was
present know, gave us counsel that told us how to master the Red-
Beards by attacking them and throwing stones into their boats, which
afterward we did, thus killing the most of them. Yet now you would egg
on the people to sacrifice her to the Ice-gods, dog that you are."

Then Moananga once more smote Urk upon the face, tumbling him over
onto the sand, and limped away, while all who heard shouted applause
of the words, as just before they had done of those of Urk, for such
is the fashion of crowds.

Just then Wi himself appeared, whereon Urk rose from the sand and
began to praise him, saying that there had been no such chief of the
tribe since the days of his great-grandfather's great-grandfather.
Then all the people ran together and took up that song of praise; yes,
even those of the wounded who could walk, for in their hearts they
knew, every one of them, that it was Wi who had saved them from death
and their women from even worse things. Yes, however much they might
grumble and find fault, they knew that it was Wi who had saved them,
as they knew also that it was Laleela, the Witch-from-the-Sea, who had
saved Wi by springing in front of him and receiving the little spear
into her own breast and who, after she was stricken, yet had given
good counsel to him, to Pag and to Moananga.

Wi heard all their praises but answered nothing to them. Nay, he
pushed aside those who crowded round him and the women who strove to
kiss his hand, forcing a way through them to where the dead lay, upon
whom he looked long and earnestly. Then, having given orders for their
burial, he went on to visit those who had deep wounds, still saying
nothing. For the heart of Wi was heavy in him, and the words of Aaka
had pierced him like a spear. Remembering his oath, he knew not what
he should do, and even now, in the hour of his victory, he wondered
what Fate had in store for him and for Laleela, who had saved his
life, which he wished that she had not done.



So, from that time forward, day by day, Wi went about his tasks very
silently, saying little to anyone, because his heart was sore and he
feared lest, should he open his lips, its bitterness would escape from
them. Therefore, he kept apart from others and walked much alone, or
accompanied by Foh only, for this son of his seemed all that was left
to him. Also, he went out hunting as he used to do before he killed
Henga and became the chief, letting it be known that sitting so much
in the cave took away his health and spirits; also that, meat being
needed, he held it his duty as the best huntsman of the tribe to kill
deer, if he could, though this was not often, since, because of the
bad season, the most of the deer seemed to have left the woods.

One day, Wi followed a doe far into the forest, and having lost her
there, turned homeward. His road led him past a little pocket in the
hillside where the fir trees grew thickly. This cleft or pocket was
not more than thirty paces deep by perhaps as many wide. All round it
were steep walls of rock, and its mouth was narrow, perhaps three
paces across, no more. Outside of it was a patch of rain-washed rock
of the size of a large hut, which rock ended in a little cliff about
four spear lengths high. Below this cliff lay a patch of marsh, such
as were common in a forest, a kind of hole filled with sticky red
slime in the centre of which a spring bubbled up that could be seen
beneath the growth of marsh briars that grew on the red mud, which mud
spread out for many paces every way and at its edge was ringed round
with fir trees.

As Wi drew near to this pocket, he heard a snorting sound that caused
him to stand still and take shelter behind the bole of a big tree, for
he did not know what beast made that noise.

Whilst he stood thus, out of the narrow entrance of the cleft there
stalked a huge aurochs bull, so great a beast that a tall man standing
by its side could not have seen over its shoulder. It stood still upon
the patch of rock, looking about it and sniffing the air, which caused
Wi to fear that it had smelt him, and to crouch close behind the tree.

But this was not so, for the wind blew from the bull to him. Now, Wi
stared at the aurochs as he had never stared at anything, except at
Laleela when first he saw her in her hollow log. For, although such
beasts were told of among the tribe, they were very rare, being quite
different from the wild cattle, and he had never seen but one of them
before, a half-grown cow. It was a mighty creature with thick curved
horns, and its body was covered with black hair, while down its spine
ran a long gray streak of other lighter-coloured hair. Its eyes were
fierce and prominent, its legs were short so that its dewlap hung
nearly to the ground, and it had big cleft hoofs.

A great desire took hold of Wi to attack that beast, but he restrained
himself because he knew that he could not prevail against it, for
certainly it would toss and trample him to death. Whilst he watched
it, the bull turned and went away from him down the ledge of rock and
presently he heard it crashing a path through the forest, doubtless to
seek its feeding ground.

When it had gone Wi crept to the mouth of the cleft and looked in,
searching the place with his eyes. Then, as he could neither see nor
hear anything, with a beating heart he entered the cleft, keeping
close to the left-hand wall of rock, and worked his way round it,
slipping from tree to tree. It was empty, but at its end grew some
large firs, and beneath them, bracken, and here, from many signs, Wi
learned that the aurochs bull had its lair. Thus the trunks of the
trees were polished by its hide as it rubbed itself against them,
which showed him that this was its home; also the ground was trodden
hard with its feet, and in certain places where it was soft, torn by
its horns which it had thrust deep into the sandy soil to clean and
sharpen them.

Wi came out of the cleft and stood still, thinking. He turned and
looked over the edge of the little cliff at the morass beneath. Then
he climbed down the cliff and, by the help of a fallen tree, some few
feet out upon the morass where he tested the depth of the mud with his
spear.

It was deep for he must drive in the spear to its full length, and the
arm that held it to the elbow, before he touched the rock or hard
ground that formed its bottom. Scrambling along the fallen tree, he
did this thrice, and always found the bottom at the same depth. Then
he climbed the cliff again, and, standing before the mouth of the
cleft, Wi, the brave and cunning hunter, thought to himself thus:

"That mighty bull rests in the daytime in yonder hole. But when
evening draws in, it comes out to feed. Now, if, when it came out, or
when it returned in the morning, it found a man standing in front of
it, what would it do? Certainly it would charge him. And if the man
leapt aside, what would happen? It would fall over the cliff and be
bogged, and there the man might go down and fight it."

Thus thought Wi, and his nostrils spread themselves out and his eyes
flashed as he thought of that great fight which might be between a
hunter and this bull of bulls wallowing together there in the slime.
Then he thought again, thus:

"The odds are great. The bull might catch the man with a sweep of its
horns and be too cunning to rush over the cliff which it knows well.
Or being so mighty, when they were at it in the mud, it might break
out and come on to him, and there would be an end. Yes, there would be
death."

A third time Wi thought:

"Am I so happy that I should fear to face death? Have I not wondered
many a time of late whether it would not be well to stumble among the
rough roots of the trees and to fall by chance upon the point of my
spear? And were it not for Foh, should I not have stumbled thus--by
chance--and been found pierced with the spear, for when the spear had
done its work might there not be peace for one who has tried and
failed and knows not which road to take? What better end could there
be for a hunter than to die covered with glory fighting this mighty
beast of the forest which no man of his people has ever yet dared to
do? Would not the tribe make songs about me which they would tell on
winter nights by the fire in the days to come, yes, they and their
children after them for more generations than Urk can remember? And
would not Aaka, the wife of my youth, then learn to think of me
tenderly?"

Thus said Wi to himself and hastened homeward through the twilight.
Indeed, as the way was far and the path difficult, the darkness had
fallen ere ever he came to the cave.

Entering silently from the shadows, he saw Aaka standing by the fire,
and noted that her face was troubled, for she was staring into the
darkness at the mouth of the cave. By the fire also sat Pag polishing
a spear head, and near to him Foh, who was whispering into his ear. At
a distance, by the other fire, Laleela, now recovered from her wound
but still somewhat pale, went about among the cast-out babes, seeing
that their skin rugs were wrapped round them so that they might not
grow cold in the night. With her was Moananga. He whispered into her
ear and she smiled and seemed to answer aimlessly, for her eyes, too,
were fixed upon the darkness at the mouth of the cave.

Wi came forward into the firelight. Aaka saw him and instantly her
face changed, for on it seemed to fall its usual mask of haughtiness.

"You are late, Husband," she said, "which, as you were alone"--here
she glanced first at Laleela and next at Pag, the two of whom she was
so jealous--"is strange and caused me to fear, who thought that
perhaps you might have met more Red Wanderers."

"No, Wife," he answered simply. "I think that we shall see no more
wanderers on this shore. I wounded a doe with my spear which stuck in
its side, and followed it far, but it escaped me, who have no fortune
nowadays, even at the only craft I understand," he added with a sigh.
"Now I am tired and hungry."

"Did the deer carry away the spear, Father?" asked Foh.

"Yes, Son," he replied absently.

"Then how comes it that it is in your hand, Father, for when you sent
me back this morning you had only one spear?"

"It fell from the doe's side and I found it again amongst the rocks,
Son."

"Then, if it fell among rocks, why is the shaft covered with mud,
Father?" asked Foh, but Wi made no answer. Only Pag, who had been
watching him with his one bright eye, rose and, taking the spear,
began to clean it, noting as he did so that there was no dry blood
upon its point.

Before she went away to her hut where the fancy had taken her to sleep
again for a while, because she said that the crying of the cast-out
children disturbed her, Aaka brought Wi his food. This she did because
she feared that otherwise Laleela might take her place and serve him
with his meat.

On the following day, Wi stopped at home and did those things that lay
to the hand of the chief. There was much trouble in the tribe. The
time of autumn had come and the weather remained cold and cheerless,
as it had done during that of summer. Food was scanty, and the most of
what could be won by the order of Wi was being saved up against the
coming winter. Even here there was trouble, because many of such fish
as could be caught, being laid out on the banks in the usual way for
curing, went bad owing to the lack of sun to dry them, so that much
labour was wasted. Moreover, those women whose husbands or sons had
been killed in the fight with the Red-Beards, forgetting the perils
from which they and all the tribe had been saved, began to grumble
much, as did those whose men had been wounded and were not recovered
of their hurts. This was their cry:

That Laleela, the fair white Witch-from-the-Sea, she who was the love
of Wi, had brought all these ills upon them, she who had led the Red-
Beards to their shores, and that therefore she ought to be killed or
driven away. Yet none of them dared to lift a finger against her,
first because, as they supposed, she was the lover of Wi whom every
one of them feared and honoured; and secondly, because all did not
think as they did. Thus many of the men clung to Laleela, some for the
reason that she was sweet and beautiful, and others because they knew
that she had saved Wi from death, offering up her own life for his.

Also there were women who sided with her. For instance, the mothers of
the cast-out children whom she tended night and day, for although they
had cast them out, the most of those mothers still loved their
children and came to nurture them, in their hearts blessing Wi, who
had saved them from death, and her who tended them in their
helplessness. Moreover, although this was strange, however much she
may have plotted against her and desired her death in the past, and
however much in a fashion she hated her through jealousy, in secret
Laleela's greatest friend and protector was Aaka.

For, although she would never say so, Aaka knew that, had it not been
for this woman whom she called "Witch-from-the-Sea," there would have
been no Wi left living. Also she honoured Laleela, knowing, too, that
if she who was so sweet and beautiful chose to stretch out her hand
and to look on him with the eyes of love, she could cause Wi to forget
his oath and to take her to himself, which she did not do. Therefore,
although she spoke rough words of her openly and turned her back upon
her and mocked at Wi about her, still in secret she was Laleela's
friend.

Further, Laleela had another friend in Moananga who, after Wi, was the
most beloved and honoured of any in the tribe, especially since he had
borne himself so bravely against the Red-Beards. For, from the moment
that Moananga had seen Laleela leap in front of Wi to receive the
arrow in her breast, he had fallen in love with her, although it was
not in front of him that she had leapt.

This folly of his made trouble in his house, because, although his
wife Tana, like Aaka, was jealous natured, if in a gentler fashion,
still he loved Laleela, and what is more, said so openly.

Indeed, he tried to win her, announcing that he was bound by no laws
which Wi had made. But in this matter he failed, for, although Laleela
answered him very sweetly, she would have none of him, about which,
when she came to learn of it, Tana mocked him much. Yet so kindly did
Laleela push him away from her that he remained the dearest and
closest of her friends, mayhap because he knew that it was Wi who
stood between them, Wi his brother, whom he loved more than he did any
woman. Still, he found Tana's mockery hard to bear, though, the more
she mocked, the closer he clung to Laleela, as did Tana, because she
held that Laleela had taught Moananga a lesson that he needed.

Taking heed of none of these things which meant naught to them, the
common people of the tribe grumbled and moaned in their distress, and
because they could find no other at whose door to lay their troubles,
they bound them on to the back of Laleela, saying that she had brought
them with her out of the sea and that their home was on her shoulders.
For being but simple folk they did not understand that, like the rain
or the snow, evil falls upon the heads of men from heaven above.




CHAPTER XVI



THE AUROCHS AND THE STAR


On the second morning Wi, who had made all things ready to his hand,
rose while it was still dark, kissed Foh, who lay fast asleep at his
side, and slipped from the cave, taking with him three spears and the
bone-hafted ax of iron that Pag had made and fashioned, the same with
which he had slain Henga. As he went by the flickering light of the
fire, he saw Laleela sleeping among the babes, looking most beautiful
with her long, bright hair lying in masses about her. Sweet was her
face as she lay thus asleep, and yet, as he thought, sad and troubled.
He stood still looking at her, then sighed and went on, thinking that
she had not seen him, for Wi did not know that after he had passed,
Laleela sat up and watched him till he was lost in the shadows.

Outside the cave, tied to a stake beneath a rough shelter of stones,
was his dog, Yow, a fierce, wolf-like beast that loved him only, which
often he took with him when he went a-hunting, for it was trained to
drive game toward him. Loosing Yow, who whimpered with joy at the
smell of him, Wi struck him on the head with his hand, thus telling
the beast that he must be silent. Then he started, pausing a little
while by the hut in which Aaka slept. Indeed, almost he entered it,
but in the end did not because he knew that she would question him
closely, for the night was too far gone for him to come to sleep with
her in the hut as he did sometimes, while it was too early for him to
be stirring in the dark when all were asleep and she would guess that
he planned some adventure and try to wring out of him what it might
be.

Wi thought to himself that if only Aaka was as she had been in past
years, he would not now be starting to fight the aurochs single-
handed, and so thinking, for the second time that morning he sighed.
Yet he was not angry with her, for well he knew what had caused this
change. It was the death of her child Fo-a, murdered by the brute man
Henga, that had turned her heart sour and made of her another woman.
For he knew also that secretly she blamed him and laid Fo-a's death
upon his shoulders, as Pag had always laid it upon her own.

Always Aaka, for a long time before he did so, had desired that he
should challenge Henga, and this not only because she wished that he
should become chief of the tribe. Nay, there was a deeper reason.
Something within her had warned her that, if Henga continued to live,
he would bring calamity upon her and her house. Therefore, knowing
Wi's strength and skill and being sure in herself that, however mighty
Henga might be Wi could conquer him, again and again she had urged Wi
to give him battle, though she had hidden from him the true reason for
her urging. But he would not do so, not because he had been afraid,
but because he had shrunk from thrusting himself forward and causing
all to talk of him, being a man of very modest mind; also because he
had feared lest Henga should overcome him, being so terrible a giant,
in which case not only would he have been killed, a matter of no great
moment, but Aaka and his children would have been at the mercy of the
tyrant, and unless they had slain themselves must have borne his
vengeance.

Therefore, not until Fo-a had been butchered through Aaka's own fault
and jealousy of Pag, whom she hated because Wi loved him so much, had
he consented to stir in this business that he might avenge his child's
blood upon Henga, if so he could. Even then he had not stirred until
she had sent him to take counsel with the Ice-gods and watch for the
omen of the falling stone, for secretly she had climbed to the crest
of the glacier on the day before he went and thrust sundry of the
loose stones to its very lip when she had known that one or other of
them would fall on the following morning when the rays of the risen
sun struck upon the ice. Or if, perchance, none had fallen, then she
would have made some other plan to bring about that which she desired,
for always, be it remembered, she was sure in herself that Wi, whom
she looked upon as greater and stronger than any who lived, as half a
god indeed, would deal out death to Henga if once he could be brought
to face him, and after Fo-a had been murdered, she had had but one aim
in life--to see Henga dead ere he killed Wi and Foh also.

Much of all this Wi knew, and more he guessed, though some things were
hid from him, such as the placing of the stones upon the lip of the
glacier. Oh! all had gone awry between Aaka and himself, and now
Laleela had come clothed in beauty, wisdom, and sweetness to tie the
threads of their lives to a knot that he knew not how to loosen.
Surely he would be better dead, leaving Moananga to become chief after
him. At least, so he held, and if the gods had decreed otherwise, then
let them give him the strength to conquer the bull of bulls.

Thus did he take these matters out of the rackings of his troubled
mind and lay them in the hands of Fate, that Fate might decide them as
it would. If he killed the aurochs or could not find it again, then he
would know it was a sign from the gods who decreed that he must live
on, and if otherwise, then his troubles would be done. So he departed
from the hut thinking that Aaka would never learn how he had stood
there in the darkness filled with such musings and memories, and
presently was on the seashore and clear of the village.

Here he stayed a while until the sky turned gray and there was light
sufficient to enable him to thread his way through the forest.

This he did slowly at first, but afterward more quickly, following a
different road to that which he had taken after he had first seen the
aurochs, one which ran along the edge of the beach where in places
blown sand still lay among the fir trees. This he did because he
feared lest the bull should have scented him after he left its lair
two days before, and be watching and waiting on his track. At length
he struck up hill, for, although he had never walked that path, the
hunter's sense within him told him where to turn, and striking the
foot of the little marsh, skirted round it, till he came near the
bottom of the low cliff, along the top of which ran the rocky path
that bordered the den of the aurochs. Here he rested a while, hiding
himself in the brambly undergrowth, because he did not know at what
hour the bull returned to its lair after its nightly feed, and feared
lest he might meet it on the rocky path.

He had sat still thus for perhaps the half of an hour or more, idly
watching certain birds that had gathered together on the branches of a
dead fir near by, preparing to fly south long before their accustomed
time. Presently, after much twittering, the birds rose in a cloud and
flew away to warmer climes, though, as Wi knew nothing of any other
country, he wondered why they went and whither. Next a rabbit ran past
him, screaming as it ran, and as though bewildered, took shelter
behind a stone, where it crouched. Presently he saw why it had
screamed, for after it, running on its scent, swift, thin, terrible,
silent, came a weasel. The weasel also vanished behind the stone where
the rabbit had crouched. There was a sound of scuffling and of more
thin screams, then the weasel and the rabbit rolled out together from
behind the stone, the weasel with its sharp teeth fixed in the
rabbit's neck.

"Behold death hunting all things," thought Wi to himself. "Behold the
gods hunting man, who flies and screams, filled with terror of he
knows not what, till they have him by the throat!"

Suddenly the dog Yow, who had taken no heed of the rabbit, being too
well trained, half rose from where he crouched hidden in the thick
bushes at his master's side, lifted his fierce head, sniffed the wind
which blew toward them from the direction of the aurochs' den, and,
looking upward, uttered a growl so low that it could scarce be heard.

Wi also looked upward and saw what it was at which Yow growled.

For there, but a few paces above him, with the morning light glancing
from its wide, polished horns, came the huge aurochs, returning, full-
fed, to its lair. Wi shivered when he saw it, for viewed thus from
beneath, with its shadow, magnified by the low light, showing enormous
on the rocky wall beyond, the beast was terrifying as it marched past
him majestically, shaking its great head and lashing its flanks with
its bushy tail; so terrifying, indeed, that Wi bethought him that it
would be wise to fly while there was yet time.

Oh! could any man prevail against such a brute as this, Wi wondered,
and turned to go.

Then he remembered all the purpose that had brought him thither; also
how great would be his future glory if he could kill that bull, and
how noble his end if the bull killed him. So he sat down again and
waited awhile, another half-hour, perhaps, to give the aurochs some
time to settle itself in its lair and forget its vigilance, so that,
if it were disturbed, it might come out confused by sleep. Also Wi
waited till the sun, which as it chanced shone that morning, should
reach a certain height, when he hoped that its rays, striking full in
the beast's eyes, would confuse it, as it issued forth.

At length the moment was at hand when he must either dare the deed, or
leave it undared and return home ashamed, making pretence that he had
gone forth to hunt deer which he had not found, and perhaps to be
laughed at for his lack of skill by Pag, whom of late he had forbidden
to follow him because he wished to be alone, or to be asked by Aaka
for the venison which she knew he had not brought.

Remembering these things, Wi rose up, stretched his arms, straightened
himself, and climbed the little cliff to give battle to the aurochs.

Stripping himself of his skin robe, he laid it on one side, hanging it
to the bough of a tree, so that now he was clothed only in an
undergarment of fawn's hide which came down to above his knees. Then,
having thrust his left wrist through the loop of his ax, he took one
of the short, heavy spears in his right hand, holding the other two in
his left. Next he peered into the cleft, but could see nothing of his
game, which doubtless was lying down under the trees at the farther
end. The hound Yow smelt it there indeed, for he began to slaver at
the mouth and his hair stood up upon his back. Wi patted him upon the
head and made a motion with his arm. Yow understood and leapt into the
cleft like a stone from a sling. Before Wi could count ten, there
arose a sound of wrathful bellowing and of crashing boughs, telling
him that the bull was up and charging at Yow.

Nearer came the bellowing and the crashings, and now he saw the great
brute. Yow was leaping to and fro in front of it, silently, after his
fashion, keeping out of the reach of its horns, while the aurochs
charged again and again, tearing up the ground and stamping with its
feet, but never touching Yow who thus led it forward as he had been
trained to do. At length, when it was quite close to the mouth of the
cleft, Yow sprang and, seizing it by the nose, hung there.

Out they came, the pair of them, the aurochs tossing its head and
trying to shake off Yow who would not leave go, rearing up also as it
swung the dog from side to side and striking at it with its fore feet
--but without avail. Now it was alongside of Wi, who stood waiting
with raised spear, like to a man of stone. It dropped its head, hoping
to rub Yow on the ground and free itself. Wi saw his chance. Quickly
as a swooping hawk, he sprang at it and drove the flint spear through
the bull's right eye, then thrust upon it with all his strength. The
spear had vanished in the bony socket of the eye; with a roar of rage
and pain, the aurochs tossed up its head so mightily that the spear
shaft broke close to the pierced eye, and Yow was hurled far away,
torn from his hold upon the nose, though never had the brave hound
unlocked his jaws. The bull smelt the man and charged at him along the
narrow path. Wi flattened himself against the rock, for it could not
see him with its blinded eye and rushed past him, though the great
horn touched his chest. It wheeled round, Wi saw and scrambled up the
face of the rock to twice the height of a man, where he stood upon a
little ledge, steadying himself with his left elbow against the root
of a fir.

Now the aurochs caught sight of him and, rearing itself up on its hind
legs, strove to reach him with its horns. Wi took a second spear in
his right hand, letting fall the third, and with his left, that was
now free, gripped the root of the fir. The great mouth of the aurochs
appeared over the edge of the ledge, but because of this ledge it
could not touch him with its horns. It opened its mouth, roaring in
its mad rage. Wi, bending forward, thrust the second spear down that
cavern of a mouth and deep into the throat beyond. It was wrenched
from his grip. Blood running from its muzzle, the aurochs drove
furiously at the ledge on which Wi stood. Its horn caught underneath
the ledge, and so great was its strength that it broke a length of the
soft rock away from the cliff face, that length on which Wi stood,
leaving him hanging to the root.

Now he became aware that Yow had reappeared, for he heard his low
growls. Then the growlings ceased and he knew that he must have fixed
his fangs into the hind parts of the bull. Down went the aurochs,
seeking to kill the hound, leaping along the path and kicking, and
down went Wi also, for his root broke. He landed on his feet, turned,
and saw the bull a few paces to the left, almost doubled into a ball
in its efforts to be rid of Yow, who clung to his flank or belly. Wi
picked up his last spear, which lay upon the path. The bull came
round, and as it came, saw him with its unharmed eye. It charged,
dragging Yow with it; Wi hurled his last spear, which struck it in the
neck and there remained fixed. Again Wi leapt aside, but this time to
the right, because he must, for the bull rushed along close to the
bank from which he had fallen. The brute saw, and wheeling, came at
him. Wi caught it by the horns with both hands and hung there, being
swung to and fro in the air over the swamp beneath. The rotten ground
gave, and down went Wi, the aurochs, and Yow into the mud below!



A little while after Wi had left the cave, Pag was wakened by someone
who shook him by the shoulder. He looked up and, in the low light of
the fire, saw that it was Laleela, her blue eyes wide open, her face
distraught as though with fear.

"Awake, Pag," she said. "I have dreamed a very evil dream. I dreamed
that I saw Wi fighting for his life, though with what he fought I do
not know. Listen! Before it was day, I woke up suddenly, and by the
light of the fire, I saw Wi leave the cave carrying spears, and
presently heard Yow whimper as he loosed him from his kennel. Then I
went to sleep again and dreamed the evil dream."

Pag sprang up, seizing his spear and his ax.

"Come with me," he said, and shambled from the cave to the place where
Yow was tied up at night.

"The dog is gone," he said. "Doubtless Wi has taken it with him to
hunt in the woods. Let us search for him, for perhaps you who are wise
dream truly."

They sped away, heading for the woods. As they passed Moananga's hut,
he came out of it, just awakened, to look at the promise of the dawn.

"Bring ax and spear and follow," called Pag. "Swift, swift! Stay not
to talk."

Moananga rushed into his hut, seized his weapons, and raced after
them. As the three of them went, Pag told the story.

"A fool's dream," said Moananga. "With what would Wi be fighting? The
tiger and the wolves are dead, and wild cattle have left the woods."

"Have you never heard of the great bull of the forest before which no
man dare stand? It is about, as I know, for I have seen its signs and
where it lies, and although I hid it from him, perhaps Wi knew it
also," answered Pag in a low voice, to save his breath. Then in the
gathering light he pointed to the ground, saying:

"Wi's footmark and the track of Yow walking at his side, not an hour
old," and putting down his big head, he fixed his one eye upon the
ground and followed the trail, while after him came the others.

Swiftly they ran, for the light was good and the trail across the sand
clear to Pag the Wolf-man, who, it was said, could run by scent alone.
Following the footprints, at length they came to the foot of the marsh
that lay beneath the little cliff. Still running on the track they
turned to skirt it, as Wi had done. Suddenly, Laleela uttered a cry
and pointed with her hand.

Lo! there in the mud of the swamp, wallowing feebly, was the terrible
bull; there athwart its neck sat Wi, holding to its horn with one
hand, and with the other still smiting weakly at its head with his ax,
while crushed beneath appeared the hindquarters of the dead dog.

As they looked, the aurochs made a last effort. It reared itself up,
tearing its shoulder from the sticky mud; it turned over, bearing Wi
with it. Wi vanished beneath the mud; the bull moaned and lay still;
its flesh quivered, its eyes shut.

Pag and Moananga rushed round the marsh till they came to the foot of
the cliff near to which Wi and the bull were bogged. They leapt on to
the body of the aurochs. Pag, whose strength was great, dragged the
huge head aside. Beneath it lay Wi. Laleela came. She and Moananga,
standing up to their middles in the mud where they found a footing,
tugged at him; mightily they strove, till at last he was free. They
dragged him to the edge of the swamp, they laid him on his face and
waited, staring at each other. Lo! he moved. Lo! he coughed, red mud
was pouring from his mouth. They were in time--Wi lived!



The tribe was in a tumult. These three, Laleela, Pag, and Moananga,
had brought Wi back to the village, half supporting, half carrying
him. Then the tribe, learning what had happened, had rushed out to the
swamp beneath the little cliff, and thence by main force had dragged
the aurochs and the dog Yow, which in death still clung to it with
locked jaws. They washed the mud off the beast with water and saw the
spears of Wi, one fixed deep in its eye socket and one in its throat
at the root of the tongue. They noted how Wi had hacked at the beast's
head with his ax, striving to sever its neck bone, which he could not
do because of the thickness of the mane and hide, but at length
battering it till it died. They marvelled at its mighty horns one of
which it had splintered when it tore the ridge of rock upon which Wi
stood. They measured its bulk with wands and reported it to Urk the
Aged, who was too old to go so far but said that in the days of his
grandfather's grandfather a still bigger bull had been killed by his
great-uncle's great-uncle, who threw over it a net of withies and
pounded it to death with rocks while it struggled to be free. Someone
asked him how he knew this, whereon he answered that his great-great-
grandmother, when she was a hundred winters old, had told it to his
grandmother, who had told it to him when he was a little lad.

So the bull was skinned, the meat on it divided up, and the hide
brought home to be a mat for the cave. Also the head was brought,
carried upon poles by four men and tied to that tree upon which had
been hung the head of Henga until Pag used it as a bait for the great
toothed tiger. Yes, it was brought with one of Wi's spears fixed in
the eye socket, and another, whereof the shaft was champed to pieces,
fast in its throat. There it hung and the people came up and stared at
it. Wi also, when he had vomited out all the red mud and rested
himself, sat in the mouth of the cave and stared at the great head
hanging on the tree, wondering how he had found strength to fight that
beast while it lived.

There Aaka spoke with him.

"You are a mighty man, Husband," she said, "so mighty that long ago
you might have made an end of Henga if it had pleased you, and thus
saved our daughter from death. I am proud to have borne the children
of such a man. And yet, tell me, how came it that Pag and Moananga
were there to drag you from the mud when the bull rolled over on to
you?"

"I don't know, Wife," Wi answered, "but I hear that Laleela had
something to do with the business. She dreamed something, I know not
what, which she told to Pag and Moananga, and they ran out to seek me.
Ask her whom I have not seen since I woke up."

"I have sought her, Husband, but she cannot be found. Yet I do not
doubt that, being a witch, her witchcraft was at work here, as
always."

"If so, in this case you should not grumble, Wife."

"I do not grumble, I thank her who has preserved alive the greatest
man that is told of among the people. I say more. I think that you
should marry her, Wi, for she has earned no less. Only first you must
find her."

"As to this matter of marriage, I have made a new law," answered Wi.
"Shall the maker of laws be also the breaker of laws?"

"Why not?" said Aaka, laughing, "seeing that he who makes can also
break. Moreover, who will find fault with the man that single-handed
could slay this bull of bulls? Not I for one, Wi."

"Two of us slew it," answered Wi, looking down. "The hound Yow and I
slew it together. Without Yow, I should have been slain."

"Aye, and therefore glory be to Yow. If I were a lawmaker like you,
Wi, I should choose Yow to be a god among us."

Then she smiled in her dark fashion and went away to talk with Pag and
Moananga, for Aaka desired to learn the truth of all this matter.

Wi sat in the mouth of the cave eating his food and telling the tale
of the fight to Foh, his son, who listened with open mouth and staring
eyes. Then he sent Foh to help peg out the skin of the bull, and when
he was gone, slipped from the cave to seek for Laleela, who could not
be found.

Not knowing where to look, he walked, very stiffly at first, along the
shore by the mouth of the great glacier and round the headland beyond,
past the hills and smaller glaciers, toward the seal bay. There, if
anywhere, he thought that he might find Laleela, since thither, after
the fight with the Red Wanderers, her boat had been brought back and
hidden in the little cave at the head of the bay! Late in the
afternoon, he reached the place and there, seated at the mouth of the
small cave, he found Laleela as though she were waiting for the sun to
set or for the moon to rise. She started, looking down but saying
nothing.

"Why are you here?" he asked sternly.

"I came to be alone to give thanks to the moon that I worship, because
of a certain dream which was sent to me, and to make my prayer to the
moon when she appears."

"Is it so, Laleela? Are you sure that you did not come for another
purpose also?" and he looked toward the cave where her boat was
housed.

"I am not sure, Wi. All hangs upon the answer that is sent to my
prayer."

"Hearken, Laleela," he said in a voice that was thick with rage.
"Unless you swear to me that you will not fly away for a second time,
I will drive my ax through the bottom of that boat of yours or burn it
with fire."

"To what purpose, Wi? Cannot the seekers of Death travel to him by
many roads? If one be blocked a hundred others still remain."

"Why should you seek death?" he asked passionately. "Are you then so
unhappy here? Do you hate me so much that you wish to die?"

Now Laleela bent her head and shook her long hair about her face as
though to hide her face and spoke to him through the meshes of her
hair, saying very softly:

"You know that I do not hate you, Wi, but rather that I hold you too
dear. Yet, hear me. Among my own folk I am named a prophetess, one
believed to have gifts that are not given to all, and in truth
sometimes I think that I have such gifts. Thus, when I left my own
people, I was sure that I must do so that I might find one who would
be more to me than all others, and did I not find him? Yet now that
gift is upon me again, and it tells me that I should do well to go
away, because, if I bide here, I shall bring evil upon the head of one
who is more to me than all others."

"Then stay, Laleela, and together let us face this evil that your
heart foretells."

"Wi, we may face nothing quite together. Have you not sworn an oath,
and would you break that oath? I think not. Yet, if you should be
weak, must I therefore cease from being strong? Nay, draw not near to
me lest madness take you, for here and now I swear that oath for you
afresh. Never will I live to see you mocked of Aaka and of your
people, as a man who has broken his oath for a woman's sake. Nay,
rather would I die twice over."

"Then it is finished," said Wi with a groan.

Laleela lifted her head and looked upward. In the sky appeared the
evening star, and on this star she fixed her eyes, then answered:

"By what right do you say that it is finished between us, or indeed
that anything is ever finished? Listen, Wi. Among my folk are wise men
and women who hold that death is not the end of all; indeed, that it
is but the beginning, and that yonder, beyond that star, the life we
lay down here will spring afresh, and that in this new life all which
we have lost will be found again. I am of that company, I who am
called a prophetess; and so I believe, who hold therefore that this
world is of small account and that if once we find thereon that which
we were sent forth to seek, for us it has served its purpose and may
be well forgot."

Wi stared at her, then asked:

"Do you mean that somewhere beyond death there is a home where we
shall find those whom we have lost, where I shall find Fo-a my child
and the mother who suckled me, and--and others, and there be in joy
and peace with them?"

"Yes," answered Laleela, looking him in the face, and her eyes were
bold and happy.

"At times," said Wi, "aye, not often, but now and again, such hope has
come to me, only to fade away. If I could but be sure that I who am
but what you see, a beast that thinks and talks--Oh! tell me of this
faith, Laleela."

So, speaking low and earnestly, she set it out to him, a simple faith
indeed, such as has been held by chosen ones throughout the earth in
all the generations, yet a pure and a comfortable one, while he drank
in her words and his heart burned with a new fire.

"Now I understand why you were sent to me, Laleela," he said at
length. "Tell me no more to-night. I must think, I must think."

She smiled at him very happily, and as they rose to go, said this:

"Wi, there was more in that dream that came to me this morning than I
told to Pag or any. That dream said to me that you went out secretly
in the darkness almost hoping that you would not return in the light."

"Perhaps," he answered briefly, "for I was unhappy."

"Who now are happy again, Wi. See, I have promised you that no more
will I flee from you back into the water whence I came, but, through
good and ill, will stand at your side till the end which is the
beginning, though not hand in hand. Do you promise me as much, Wi?"

"I do, Laleela."

"Then all is well, Wi, and we can laugh at troubles."

"Yes, Laleela. But there is one thing. You know that I love Foh, my
only child, and always I am afraid for Foh. I am afraid lest the
brother should follow the sister, Laleela."

"Cease to be afraid, Wi. I think that one day Foh will be a great
chief over a great tribe."

"How do you know that?" he asked eagerly.

"Have I not told you that I am named a prophetess, or a Witch-from-
the-Sea, as your people call me?" she answered, and smiled at him
again.




CHAPTER XVII



WI DEFIES THE GODS


This great talk of theirs, the "light-bringing" talk, as Wi named it,
was the first of many such between him and Laleela. From the cup of
her wisdom he drank deeply till his heart was as full of it as is a
hiving bee with honey. Soon what she believed he believed, so that
their souls were one. Yet never did he break the oath that he had
sworn to the people, and never did she tempt him so to do by look or
touch or word.

Wi changed. He who had been gloomy and full of care, always looking
over his shoulder to see the evil behind him, became happy-faced and
full of cheerful, pleasant words. Aaka stared at him amazed, who no
longer even fretted or troubled her about the health and safety of
their son Foh, but said outright that he had no fear for him any more
--that he knew all would be well with him. At first Aaka was sure
that, while keeping his oath to the outward eye, in secret he had
taken Laleela to wife, but when she found that certainly this was not
so, she felt bewildered. At length, she could bear no more and
questioned Wi in such fashion that he must answer.

"All things go ill," she said; "there is little food, and the cold,
even now at the beginning of winter, is such as has not been known.
Yet you, Wi, are as happy as a boy who fishes on a rock in the
sunshine and catches fishes many and great. How does this come about,
Wi?"

"Would you know, Wife? Then I will tell you. I have discovered a great
truth, namely that we live on after death, and that not for nothing
did I bury her toys with Fo-a, for when all is finished I shall find
her playing with them elsewhere."

"Are you mad?" asked Aaka. "Do the Ice-gods promise us any such thing?
Do Urk and the ancients teach any such thing?"

"No, Wife. Yet what I tell you is true, and if you would be happy, you
will do well to learn the same lesson."

"Who is to teach it to me, Wi?"

"I, Wife, if you will listen."

"Or rather, to begin at the beginning," she went on, "who taught it to
you? Was it Laleela?"

Now, Wi, who found that he could no longer lie as perhaps he would
have done in the old days, answered simply:

"Who else, Wife? I have learned the wisdom of her people. Believe me,
I am not mad, and that hers is a true wisdom, which has made me happy
who was wretched, which has made me brave who was full of terrors."

For a while, Aaka was silent, for words choked in her throat. Then she
said coldly:

"Now I understand. That Witch-from-the-Sea has made a wizard of you.
She has not been content to take you as a fair woman might have done
with little blame. No, she has poisoned your heart. She has turned you
from our ancient gods. Little wonder that they are wroth and bring
misfortune upon us, when the chief of the people and a witch from the
sea join together to mock and reject them and to turn to I know not
what. Tell me, what is it that you two worship when you stand staring
at the skies at night, as I know you do?"

"That which dwells in the skies, Wife; that which waits to receive us
in the skies."

Now the cold and stately Aaka trembled with wrath.

"Shall I bandy words with a wizard, one who spits upon our father's
gods?" she asked, and turning, left him.



From that hour began the great trouble. The winter was terrible; none
had known such a winter; even Urk the Aged declared that weather so
fierce had not been told of since the day of his grandfather's great-
grandfather. The winds howled continually from the north and east, and
whenever they sank a little, snow fell till it was piled up in great
drifts out of which in places only the tops of the firs appeared,
drifts that almost swallowed up the huts, so that men must throw aside
the snow from day to day to come to each other. The sea, too, was more
frozen than ever it had been before, and through the pack ice moved
great bergs like mountains, crashing their road southward, on which
bergs might be seen numbers of terrible white bears that scrambled
from them to the shore, seeking what they might devour. For if any of
the seals on which they lived were left, these were hidden beneath the
ice where the bears could not come at them.

From month to month, the people lived upon such food as Wi in his
wisdom had stored up for them, though now and again, led by him and
Moananga, they must go out against the bears that, made mad by hunger,
even strove to tear a way through the sides and roofs of the huts. In
these fights a number of them perished, being mauled by the bears, or
dying of the cold while they waited for them. Also, many of the old
people and young children died of this same cold, especially in those
huts where, notwithstanding Wi's orders, enough wood and dried seaweed
had not been stored. For now no seaweed could be got, and because of
the snowdrifts and the blizzards, it was impossible to go to the
forest and thence to bring more wood.

During all this time of suffering and of terror, Wi went to and fro
with a smiling face, doing the best he could to help even the
humblest, sheltering them in the cave, sharing the chief's food with
them, and even the fuel of which he had gathered so great a store.
Laleela, too, cherished the outcast babes and wept as one by one they
died of the bitter frosts that poured into the open mouth of the cave
and struck them through their wrappings.

At last the black winter months passed away, giving place to those of
spring. Yet no spring came. The snow, it is true, ceased to fall, and
the pack ice off the shore grew thinner, also the rivers began to run
turbidly, filled with brine rather than water, and the trees of the
woods appeared again out of their white beds, blackened and dead, for
the most part. But there was no green where there should have been
grass, no spring flowers bloomed, the fir buds did not burst, no seals
or birds appeared, while the cold remained like to that of a winter
when Wi was a lad.

Great murmuring went up from the tribe. Tales had gone from mouth to
mouth.

"The curse has come upon us," said these tales; "a curse brought by
the fair Witch-of-the-Sea."

Moreover, there spread a rumour that Wi, their chief, had deserted the
Ice-gods whom all had worshipped since the days of Urk's grandfather's
great-grandfather, and perhaps even earlier; that now he bent to the
knee to some other god, that of the Witch-of-the-Sea. As Aaka would
say nothing--although perchance already she had said too much--and as
they dared not ask the truth of Wi, he who had slain Henga and the
great toothed tiger and the bull of bulls and was therefore more than
a man, chosen ones from among the people waylaid Pag, who was Wi's
chief counsellor, and questioned him. He listened grimly, wrapped up
in his skin rugs, and watching them with his one eye, then answered:

"I know nothing of this matter of gods, I who put no faith in any
gods. All I know is that the weather has changed for the worse; also
that, as for the oath which Wi swore, he has kept it well, seeing that
although a very fair one lay to his hand, he has taken no other wife--
which he might have done--for she whom he has does not treat him
kindly. For the rest, if you are not content to die quietly, as it
seems that we must do, and would find out what is the will of the
gods, go and ask it of those who dwell in the ice yonder. Aye, let all
those who complain gather themselves together, and let Wi and those
who cling to him, of whom I am one, gather themselves together also.
Then let us go up and stand before the Ice-gods in whom you put faith
and make sacrifice to them, if there be anything left to offer, and
ask them for an oracle."

Thus spoke Pag in his bitterness and mockery, never guessing that
those poor tortured and bewildered folk would pay heed to his words.
Yet this they did, for these seemed to them a tree to cling to as they
were swept away by the flood of misery. Surely the gods to whom their
fathers had bent the knee from the beginning must exist; surely they
would listen if the people appeared before them and offered them
sacrifice, and would cause the ice to melt and the spring to come.

The people took counsel together, and at last sent some of their
number to the mouth of the cave to speak with Wi, N'gae, he who made
charms, the Priest of the Ice-gods, and Pitokiti and Hou and Whaka,
among them. So they went up to the cave, having chosen Hotoa the Slow-
speeched, and Urk the Ancient as their spokesmen, and at the mouth of
the cave Wini-wini the Shudderer blew three blasts upon his horn
according to the old custom when the people desired to talk with the
chief.

Wi came forth wearing his robe that was made of the hide of the long-
toothed tiger which he had killed, and saw the spokesmen standing
before him, shame-faced and with downcast eyes, while behind them
gathered upon the meeting place where he had fought Henga, the mass of
the people, or those who were left of them, were huddled together
miserably.

"What would you with me?" he asked.

"Chief," mumbled Urk, "we are sent to say that the people can no
longer bear the curse which has fallen upon them. We hear that the
Witch-from-the-Sea, who brought the curse, has changed your heart, so
that you have ceased to worship the ancient gods who dwell in the ice,
and have set up some other god in your heart, wherefore the Ice-
dwellers are angry. We ask you if this be true."

"It is true," answered Wi steadfastly. "No longer do I worship the
Ice-gods, because there are no such gods. Those that dwell in the ice
are but a great beast and a man, both of whom have been dead from the
beginning."

Now the messengers looked at each other and shivered, for to them
these words were horrible, while N'gae the priest waved his hands and
muttered prayers or spells. Then Urk went on:

"We feared that this was so. Hearken, Chief. It has been handed down
to me from my forefathers that once, when the people were starving
because of bad seasons, the chief offered up his son as a sacrifice to
the Ice-gods. Yes, he killed his son before them; whereon the gods
were appeased, the seasons changed, the seals and the fish returned in
plenty, and all was well."

"Do you demand that I should sacrifice my son?" asked Wi.

"Chief, N'gae the priest of the Ice-gods like his father before him,
the weaver of spells, and Taren his wife, the seeress, have made
divination and wisdom has come upon them. Yes, a Voice has spoken to
them from the roof of their hut in the dead of night."

"And what said the Voice?" asked Wi, leaning on his ax and looking at
N'gae. "Tell me, you to whom it spoke."

Then the lank, evil-faced N'gae piped an answer in his thin voice.

"Chief, the voice said that the Ice-gods must have their sacrifice and
that this sacrifice must walk upon two legs."

"Did it name the sacrifice, N'gae?"

"Nay. Yet it said that it must be chosen by the chief from the chief's
household, and thereafter be offered with his own hand, yonder in the
holy place before the face of the gods."

"Name my household," said Wi.

"Chief, there are but three of them. Aaka your wife, Foh your son, and
the Witch-from-the-Sea who is your second wife."

"I have no second wife," answered Wi. "In that matter, as in all
others, I have kept the oath which I made to the people."

"We hold that she is your second wife; also that she has brought the
curse upon us, as she brought the Red Wanderers," replied N'gae
stubbornly, while the others nodded their heads in assent. "We
demand," he went on, "that you choose one of these three to be offered
to the Ice-dwellers at sunset on the night of full moon, which is the
appointed hour of sacrifice when the sun and the moon look at each
other across the sky."

"And if I refuse?" said Wi quietly.

Now N'gae looked at Urk, and Urk answered:

"If you refuse, Chief, this is the decree of the people--this is their
message to you: They will kill all these three, Aaka your wife, Foh
your son, and the Witch-from-the-Sea, your second wife, so that they
may be sure that the one dies who should have been chosen. This they
will do, however, whenever and wherever they can catch them, by day or
by night, waking or sleeping, walking or eating, and having slain
them, they will take their bodies and lay them as an offering on the
threshold of the Dwellers in the Ice."

"Why not kill me?" asked Wi.

"Chief--because you are the Chief, who may only be slain by one who is
stronger than he, as you slew Henga, and who is there that is stronger
than you are or who dare stand before you?"

"So, like wolves, you would kill the weak and let the mighty be," said
Wi with scorn. "Well, Messengers, well, Voices of the People, go back
to them and say that Wi the Chief will take counsel with himself as to
this matter which you have brought before him. To-morrow, at this same
hour of midday, return to me and I shall speak my heart to you and to
the people, so that to-morrow night, at the setting of the sun, the
sacrifice, if sacrifice there must be, may be accomplished, when the
sun and the full moon look at each other across the skies."

Then they went, shrinking before his eyes, which seemed to burn them
like fire.



Now of this talk Wi said nothing to any--no, not even to Aaka or Pag
or Laleela, though perchance they all knew it, for when they met him
they looked upon him strangely, as did even Foh his son, or so it
seemed to him. That afternoon, going to the mouth of the cave, he saw
that a large fire had been lit down among the huts and that round it
many were gathered as though at a feast.

"Perhaps they have found a dead seal and cook it," said Wi to himself.

As he stood there wondering, Pag and Moananga came up, and he noted
that Moananga was bruised as though he had been fighting.

"What passes yonder?" asked Wi.

"This, Brother," answered Moananga, and there was horror in his voice.
"Those of the people who have eaten all their store and to whom by
your orders no more may be given till after the night of the full
moon, and who are therefore starving, have slaughtered two girl
children and cook and devour them. I tried to stay them but they
felled me with clubs, for they are fierce as wolves and more savage."

"Is it so?" said Wi in a low voice, for his heart was sick in him.

"Shall we gather men and fall on them and kill them?" asked Moananga.

"Of what use to shed more blood?" answered Wi. "They are starving
brutes, and such will fill themselves. Hearken. I go out to think. Let
none follow me, for I would be alone. Fear not, I shall return. Yet,
keep watch over the other children, for there are many famished
yonder."

So Wi went along the base of the hills that this spring were covered
with thick ice, such as had never been seen upon them before. This
ice, indeed, had crept down from the glaciers above almost to the
seashore, and he noted that where it ended its thickness was that of
the height of three spears tied one to another, and wondered what it
might be in the clefts farther up the slope of the hills. Wi came to
the valley that was called the Home of the Ice-gods and went up to it.

Lo! the great glacier had moved forward, for the last wand that he had
set to measure its advance was covered and the rocks that the ice had
pushed in front of it were piled into a heap or ridge that separated
the valley into two parts, a larger part to the left as he faced the
glacier in front of the Sleeper and a smaller part to the right where
the ice was not so steep. Wi looked at the Sleeper and the man. It
seemed to him that they were nearer than ever they had been before,
for he could see them both more clearly, although they were also
higher up in the ice.

"These gods travel," he said to himself. Then he crossed the ridge of
piled-up stones and sat himself down upon a rock to think, as more
than once he had done before. Then he had come thither because the
place was holy to him. Now it was no longer holy, but he sought it
because he knew that he would be alone, for none dared enter it at
nightfall. Wi watched the edge of the sun sinking toward the west and
the edge of the moon rising in the east, and began to pray.

"O That which Laleela worships and has taught me to worship, hear me,"
he prayed. "Behold! I am helpless. Those poor, starving folk seek to
kill the ones I love and say to me, 'Choose the victim,' and if I
choose not they will kill them. They say that the Ice-gods demand a
human sacrifice and that this sacrifice must be given to them. O That
which Laleela worships, tell me what I must do!"

Thus he prayed in rough and simple words, with his heart rather than
with his lips, and having prayed, fell into thought, communing with
his own soul.

The place was very silent. The frozen air hung heavily; on either side
rose the black rock walls of the gulf; in front was the blue ice full
of reflected lights, and above to the left of him were the grim
figures of the dead man of long ago being hunted from age to age by
the enormous, shadowy, unknown beast. In this dread house of the gods
of his people, Wi bowed his head and communed with his soul, and not
only with his own soul, but, as it seemed to him, with the souls of
all who had begotten him. For he sought not his own wisdom only, but
that of his race.

What now should he do? The tribe believed in the Ice-gods, as their
forefathers had done, back and back forever, and though he had come to
reject those gods as gods, still he also believed in them as devils,
the bearers of misery. The tribe believed that, if the sacrifice in
which ran the blood of man were made to the gods, these would cease
from tormenting them and that once more they would have plenty and
live as their ancestors had lived.

It might be so. It might be that devils could only be made kind by
blood offerings, and that the devils were near while the real gods
were far away. At least, so held the people, who were starving and
desperate, and whose soothsayers had declared that one of his own
household must be offered up to these, their gods from generation to
generation, as legend told had been done in the past by chiefs who
ruled before him. Moreover, if that offering were not made, they would
make it for themselves by murder. Therefore, an offering must be made,
and on him was laid the burden of this dreadful choice.

Who, then, should he give up to be butchered? Aaka, the wife of his
youth, whom he still loved, although she treated him so unkindly?
Never! The very thought of such a deed made him burn with shame, even
in that cold. Laleela, the sweet one from the south, whose beauty was
that of a star and whose breath was as the balm from fir trees, she
whose wisdom had given him peace, she who had offered her life for
his? Never! Then who remained? Only Foh his son, the one child that
was left to him, the bright, brave lad of promise who, as Laleela had
prophesied, might live on to become a better and more famous man than
he had been, and to beget children to succeed him. Should he stand by
and see the throat of Foh cut before the Ice-gods that the smoke of
his blood might rise to their nostrils and give them pleasure? Never!

Who then remained of his household to satisfy the hunger of the gods
and to take away the fear of the people? One only. He, Wi himself,
whom they dared not touch because he was chief and too strong for
them.

A while ago, in his wretchedness, he had gone up to fight the great
bull in the woods, half hoping that the bull would prevail against
him, who had no more desire to live. Afterward Laleela had taught him
certain lessons, amongst others, that it was wrong to die thus to
please himself, and to cast the burdens from his back upon the backs
of those who came after him. But Laleela had never taught him that it
was wrong to die for others; indeed, she herself had shown that she
was ready to do this very thing when she leapt in the path of the
little spear, and when she rowed out to sea to perish there in her
hollow log, that he might be no more reproached or mocked. Perchance,
if he died, the devils whom once he thought to be gods would be
appeased and the sun would shine again as it used to do, and the snows
and ice would melt, and the beasts and the birds would return and give
the people food. Was it not well that one should die for the sake of
many? Should he hold back his own life, if by the giving of it many
might be helped, or even believe that they would be helped? Surely
this must be given, nor should he grieve overmuch to whom Laleela had
taught certain lessons, except that, for a little while, he would be
called upon to leave Foh and her behind him.

Such were the lessons that the soul of Wi taught to Wi there in the
icy silence of the glacier.

Wi rose up and laughed aloud. He stood upon the pile of ice-borne
stones, a tiny form in that tremendous place, and shook his ax at the
Sleeper, and at him whom the Sleeper hunted, and at the shadowy shapes
that seemed to crowd about these in the moonlight, the towering,
changeful shapes that the people held to be those of gods.

"I defy you," he cried, his voice echoing strangely from the mighty
ice cliffs and the wall of rock. "Ye shall have your sacrifice. My
blood shall steam before you. Ye shall feed on death. Then, being
full, ye and those that worship you, those from whom ye draw your
strength, shall come face to face with That which is greater than ye
are. Yes, ye, the Demanders of sacrifice, shall yourselves be
sacrificed to That which is greater than ye are!"

Thus cried Wi in his madness, scarce knowing what it was he said, or
why such words broke from him.

But from the Ice-gods there came no answer; still the hunter and the
hunted stared at him; still the frost bit and the deep silence
reigned, and the moon shone on above, as he, a defeated, desperate
man, crept, half-frozen, back to whence he came.



When Wi reached the cave, he saw crouched in front of it a single
figure wrapped up in furs. It was Pag who awaited him.

"What counsel from the Ice-dwellers?" asked Pag, eyeing him strangely.

"Out of nothing comes nothing," answered Wi. "What do you here?"

"There are three within whom I watch," said Pag. "Hearken, I know all
as do the others, and if the Ice-dwellers are dumb, I have counsel. It
is that we three--you, Moananga, and I--fall upon certain ones whom
you know, those who spoke with you to-day, now in the night, and slay
them. Then, lacking leaders, the rest will scatter and hide their
heads, for they are cowards."

"I will shed no blood," said Wi, "not even that of those who hate me,
for misery makes them mad."

"Then other blood will be shed, that of those who love you."

"I think not," said Wi. "Still, watch them well who walk in the midst
of hungry wolves." Then he entered the cave and laid himself down
between Foh and Aaka. For he had sent command to Aaka that she must no
more sleep alone in her hut.




CHAPTER XVIII



THE SACRIFICE


Next day at the hour of noon Wini-wini came and, as before, blew three
blasts upon his horn. Wi went to the mouth of the cave, and there
without stood old Urk and the messengers; they who spoke as the tongue
of the people.

"What of the sacrifice?" asked Urk. "Chief, we await your word."

"It seems that one has been offered, yonder among the huts, and that
the bellies of some of you are full of strange meat," answered Wi
sternly.

They cowered before him and muttered together. Then Hotoa the Slow-
speeched spoke, and the words fell from his lips heavily, like stones
thrown into water one by one.

"Chief, we starve and must have food. The old gods, whom you deny,
starve also and must have blood. Name the sacrifice from among the
chosen three, or we will kill them all and thus be sure that the
appointed one has died."

"Am I not also of the household of the chief, Hotoa?" asked Wi. "And
if you would make sure, should I not be killed with them? See, I am
but one while you are many. Come, kill me that your gods may have
their sacrifice."

One leapt out of the darkness of the cave and stood at his side. It
was Aaka.

"Kill me also," said Aaka, "for I would go with my man. Shall we who
have slept together for so many years lie in different beds at last?"

The messengers shrank back before him. Indeed, Hou and Whaka ran away,
for they were cowards.

"Hearken, Dogs, who like dogs devour the flesh of men," said Wi in a
great voice. "Get you back to the people and say to them that, since
they will have it so, I will meet them at sunset in the Home of the
gods. There we will stand together before your gods; I and my
household upon the one side and you and the people upon the other.
There, too, perchance shall the sacrifice be named and made. Till then
I am silent. Dogs, begone!"

For a moment they stood staring at him and he stared back at them,
with flashing eyes. A mighty man he was in his robe of tigerskin and
gripping the heavy ax--so mighty that their hearts turned to water and
their knees shook. Then they slunk away like foxes before a wolf.

Aaka looked at him, and there was pride in her face.

"Tell me, Wi," she said, "are you born of the same blood as these two-
legged beasts, or did some god beget you? Tell me also, what is your
plan?"

"I tell you nothing, Wife," he answered sternly.

"Is it so, Wi? Then perchance the Sea-witch has your counsel?--for, as
we all know, she is wiser than I am?"

"Upon this matter, I take no counsel from Laleela, Wife."

"Then perchance it is Pag who whispers in your ear, Pag the Wolf-man,
who is my enemy and your friend, who teaches to your heart the craft
of wolves?"

"That stone was ill aimed," said Pag who stood by. "Last night I
whispered such counsel as I think would have pleased you, but Wi would
have none of it, Aaka."

"What counsel?" she asked.

"The counsel of ax and spear; the counsel of dogs left dead before
their own doors as a warning to the pack. Wolf's counsel, Aaka."

"Here is wisdom where I little thought to find it," she said. Then,
before Pag could answer, Wi stamped his foot, crying:

"Have done! Before the moon rides high to-night all shall learn who is
wise and who is foolish. Till then, give me peace."

Wi went into the cave and ate, talking with Foh as he ate and telling
him tales of wild beasts and how he had slain them, such as the lad
loved to hear. But to Aaka and Laleela he spoke no word, nor to Pag
either, for, spear in hand, Pag kept guard at the mouth of the cave,
and Moananga with him. Yet Laleela, watching him from far off,
wondered what his soul had said to Wi yonder in the Home of the gods.
Or perhaps she did not wonder. Perhaps his soul had told her soul and
she knew.

After he had eaten, Wi lay down and slept awhile. When it drew toward
sunset, he rose and called to Aaka and Laleela, to Foh and to Pag;
also to Moananga and his wife Tana, to cover themselves with their fur
cloaks, for the air was cold, and to accompany him to the Home of the
gods. Then he wrapped himself in his tigerskin robe, took his ax,
Pag's gift, and two spears, and led the way past the white hills that
rose above the beach, to the gulf in the mountain where the blue ice
shone and the Sleeper slept. As he passed from the cave, he noted that
the most of those who were left of the people were come together on
the Gathering-ground where he had fought Henga, and watched him, a
strange and silent company. Presently, looking back, he saw that they
were following him, still silent, much as a pack of hungry wolves
follows a little herd of deer. Yes, that was what they looked like
upon the white snow which this season would not melt, a pack of wolves
creeping after a little herd of deer.

Wi came to the glacier gulf and climbed up it, followed by his
household, till he reached the foot of the ice. Then he bade them
stand on the right of the little ridge of stones that the ice had
pushed before it, where there was a narrow strip or bay of ground
between these stones and the rock wall of the cleft which was not
overhung by the ice. For here the rocky gulf bulged outward, so that
on it no ice could lie, the mighty glacier being to the west on the
left of the stones.

"This is a strait place, Husband," said Aaka, "which gives us but
little standing room."

"We are few, Wife," he answered, "and those who come are many.
Moreover, standing here where the rock slopes outward, we can be seen
and heard of all who gather before the face of the ice."

Led by the elders the people came, and as they came, Wi pointed with
his spear, showing them that they should take their place to the left
of the stones where the valley was broad and in summer a stream ran
from the ice, which stream was now frozen. So there they gathered on
the bed of that stream, family by family, for all the tribe that could
walk had come to see this sacrifice to the ancient gods.

At length, all were there and stood still. Wi climbed upon a rock in
the little bay of the eastern cliff over against them, and stood
there, a figure of fire, for the light from the sinking sun struck
full upon him, while the great company of the people were in shadow.

"I, Wi the Chief, am here, and my household with me," he cried, and in
that great cold silence his voice echoed from the walls of ice and
rock. "Now tell me, O People--what is your will with me and mine?"

Then out of the shadows answered the piping voice of N'gae the
Diviner, the Priest, the Weaver of spells, saying:

"This is our will, Chief: That you choose for sacrifice one of your
household that the gods of our fathers may smell the blood and lift
from off us the curse that has been brought upon us by Laleela, the
Witch-from-the-Sea, whom against your oath you have taken to wife."

"On that matter I have answered you already," cried Wi across the
gulf, "but let it be. Now do you, O People, put up your prayer to your
gods, and when that prayer is finished, if to it no answer comes, I
will name the sacrifice."

Then N'gae in his thin, piping voice began to pray to the gods out of
the shadows:

"O Ice-dwellers," he said, "ye whom our fathers have worshipped from
of old, hearken to our tale. A while ago, he who is our chief made new
laws, and because the women among us were very few, decreed that no
man should take more than one wife. Also he swore that he himself
would keep his own law, and should he break it, he called down your
curse upon his head and upon those of all the tribe.

"O ye ancient gods, there rose out of the sea a very fair witch whom
this chief of ours has taken to wife, breaking his oath. Therefore the
curse that he created in your names is fallen upon us; therefore the
seasons have changed, the seals and the fish do not come, there are no
fowl and no deer in the woods, and where there should be grass and
flowers, there is naught but ice and snow. Therefore, too, we starve
and die and must fill ourselves with the flesh of our own children
because you, O gods, are wroth with us.

"Now hearken, O ye gods. It has come to us from the former days,
father telling the tale to son through many generations, that in the
far past such evils have happened to those who begat us, and are now
forgotten. For then, too, you were wroth with us because of the
wickedness of those who ruled over us, turning their backs on you, ye
gods. Yet afterward that wrath of yours was appeased by a sacrifice
chosen from among the household of the chief, and thus the curse was
lifted from us, and again we were full of food. But never did any
chief of ours sin so greatly against you as does this Wi who rules
over us to-day and who is so mighty a man that none of us may stand
against him to fight and kill him. Thus has he sinned, O ye gods from
of old. Not only has he broken his oath, but, led of the Witch-from-
the-Sea, he has rejected you and reviled you, saying that ye are no
gods, but devils, and that he worships another power without a name,
to whose feet he has been led by the magic of the Witch-from-the-Sea.
Therefore we, your servants from the beginning, have made known and
declared to him that no common sacrifice will satisfy his sin, but
that the blood to be shed must be that of one of his own family, aye,
the blood of a wife, or that of his son. Such is the case that we lay
before ye, O ye gods, we, your servants of old. Now let Wi the mighty
man, our chief who rejects you, make answer to it if he is able. And
then let the sacrifice be offered that your curse may be lifted from
off us, and that we who perish with cold and hunger, may live again."

The piping voice of N'gae died and for a while there was silence.
Then, standing on a rock, Wi made answer:

"O ye Ice-dwellers whom once I worshipped as good gods, but whom now I
know to be devils and bearers of evil, hear my words. Your priest said
that I have sworn an oath, and it is so. Yet he is a liar, for that
oath I have not broken. True it is that a curse has fallen upon us
because the seasons have changed their course, yet that curse began to
fall ere ever the woman whom they name Witch-from-the-Sea set foot
upon our shore. Now the tribe demands a sacrifice of blood to be named
by me from among my household, believing that, by virtue of this shed
blood, the curse will be lifted from them and spring and summer will
return as aforetime, bringing plenty.

"O ye Ice-dwellers, that sacrifice is ready to be offered. /I, Wi, am
that sacrifice!/ I, Wi, name myself as the victim whose blood must
flow. Yet first, ere I fall upon my spear, or stretch out my throat to
the Priest, I make prayer to that which is above both you and me. Hear
me now, O Power without a name, O Power in whom I have learned to
trust, is it your will that I should die as an offering to these
devils, the Dwellers in the ice? Answer, for I am ready. The people
are in misery; they are mad. I blame them not, I into whose hand they
were given to feed and guide. If by the shedding of my blood their
woes can be washed away, then let it be outpoured. Judge then, O
Power, between me and the people, for whom I have laboured vainly, and
the evil gods they worship who rejoice in misery and desire death.
Judge, O Power without a name. Turn the hearts of these men, if they
can be turned, and break the bonds that bind them. But if this may not
be, if, having heard me, still the people desire sacrifice, or by my
blood their miseries can be washed away, then let me die for them."

Thus prayed Wi to the Strength that dwelt above and to the folk whom
he had cherished here upon the earth, asking for no sign nor for any
vengeance, putting up no plea for pity, yet hoping that this Strength
might find a way to turn them from their bloody purpose, so that no
longer in the name of their gods they should demand the life of him or
his. As he prayed, the light of the dying sun faded from him standing
there in the bay of the cliff, so that his last words were spoken out
of the deep gloom, while the light of the rising moon grew and
gathered upon the glacier's face and upon the savage horde beneath who
stared up toward him upon the rock.

He ceased, and for a while there was a great silence, and through that
silence there came home to the heart of Wi the Hunter, Wi the wild
man, knowledge that he played his part in a war of gods, yes, in the
eternal fight between the Evil and the Good. Suddenly he knew that
those Ice-dwellers whom the people worshipped, as once he had done,
were naught but the evil in their own hearts given form and name, and
that the Unknown One whom now he worshipped was the Good in their
hearts, and his heart of which Laleela had opened the doors so that it
might enter there, the Good which now he saw and felt but which as yet
they did not understand. Which, then, would prevail, he wondered to
himself--yes, wondered calmly, even coldly, as though he judged
another's case, and in that great wonder all fear left him, and with
it the thought of the agony of death and of the loves that he must
leave behind.

He looked down upon the people and, by the shimmering moonlight,
watched their faces. They were disturbed; they began to whisper one to
another, they grew sad-eyed and some of the women wept. He caught
snatches of their talk.

"He has been kind to us," they said; "he has done all that man can do;
he is not the Lord of the seasons, he does not cause the birds to fly
or the seals to swim. Why should he not take another wife if it
pleases him? Can the gods demand his blood or that of his wives or
son? Why should he be sacrificed, leaving us leaderless?"

Such were the words that they murmured one to another.

"The Good conquers, the Ill goes down," thought Wi, still judging of
the case as though it were not his own.

But N'gae, the Weaver of Spells, who hated him, also saw and heard. He
ran out from among them, he stood facing them with his back to the ice
slope; he cried in his thin, piercing voice:

"Hear me, the priest of the Ice-gods, as were my fathers before me;
hear me, ye people. Wi, the oath-breaker, Wi through whom the curse
has fallen on you, pleads with you for his life. If he is afraid to
die, then let him give another to the gods. Let him give Aaka the
proud, or the white Witch-from-the-Sea, or Foh his son. Did we ask for
his blood? Would we kill him, the chief? Not so. If he dies, it is by
his own choice and of his own will. Therefore, let not your hearts be
softened by his pleadings. Remember what he is. Out of his own mouth
he has declared himself a reviler of the gods. He has set up another
god and in their very presence makes prayer to it, naming them devils.
Surely for this he is worthy of death. Surely because of this
blasphemy the gods will be avenged. Yet we seek not his life. Let him
give to us one of the others; let him give to us that white Witch-
from-the-Sea that we may bind her and cause her to die, here and now.
I tell you, People, I who am the priest and to whom the gods talk,
that if you go hence having robbed them of their sacrifice, you shall
starve. Yes, you shall die as many of us have died already, of
sickness and want and cold. More, you shall eat one another and kill
one another till at last none is left. Will you starve? Will you see
your children devoured? Look!" and he turned, pointing behind him at
the shadows which the moonlight caused to appear in the deep clear
ice, "The gods are moving; they gather, waiting for their feast. Will
you dare to rob them of their feast? Do so and you shall become, every
one of you, like that dead one who flies before the Sleeper. Do you
not see them moving?"

Now a groaning cry went up from the people.

"We see them! We see them!"

"And will you rob them of their feast?" asked the fierce-faced N'gae
again.

"Nay," they shouted, taking fire. "Let the sacrifice be sacrificed.
Let us see the red blood flow! Let the Ice-gods whom our fathers
worshipped smell the red blood!"

"Wi, you have your answer," piped N'gae, as the shouting died. "Now
come hither and die if you dare. Or, if you dare not, then send us one
of your household."

Aaka, holding Foh by the hand, Laleela, Pag, Moananga and his wife
clustered together as though to take counsel. Wi prepared to descend
from his rock, perchance to fall upon his spear, perchance to give
himself up to be butchered by the people and their priest.

Then it was that something, at first none knew what, began to happen
that caused all to stand silent, each in his place, like men that had
been smitten to stone. From high up in the air, although no wind blew,
there came a moaning sound, as if out of sight countless great-winged
birds were flying. The air seemed to change; it grew more icy cold,
men's breath froze upon it. The shadows in the ice shrank and grew in
the wavering moonbeams. They advanced; they flitted back quickly and
departed, only to appear again here and there, high above where they
had been.

The hairy man who stood before the Sleeper seemed to move a little.
Surely they saw him move!

The earth trembled as though it were filled with dread, and deeper and
deeper grew the silence, till, suddenly, it was broken by an awful
crack like to that of the fiercest thunder. As its echoes died away,
out of the bowels of the ice rushed the Sleeper and he whom it
appeared to hunt. Yea, the white-tusked Sleeper rushed like a charging
bull; it sped forward like a stone from a sling. The frozen man was
thrown far and vanished, but the mighty Sleeper fell full on N'gae the
priest who still stood staring upward, crushing him to powder, and
passing on, ploughed a red path through the folk beyond.

Again for a moment there was silence, and in that silence Wi said,
speaking out of the darkness as one who dreams:

"It would seem that the Ice-gods have taken their sacrifice!"

As the words died upon his lips, with an awful rending sound,
companioned by whirlwinds, the great glacier moved forward in a slow
and deadly march. It advanced down the valley, thrusting rocks in
front of it, heaving itself into waves like a tumultuous sea, digging
up the solid ground while before it great boulders leapt and danced.
The boulders danced through the people, and ice flowed over them. Yes,
as they turned to fly, it flowed over them, so that presently, where
they had been, there was nothing but a deep sea of tumbled, heaving
ice that travelled toward the beach.

Wi leapt from his rock. With those of his house, he huddled further
back into the little bay of the mountain side, and there, protected by
the walls of the cliff, watched the river of ice grind and thunder
past them. How long did they watch? None ever knew. They saw it flow.
They saw it creep into the sea and there break off in sharp-topped
hills of ice. Then, as suddenly as it had begun to move, it stopped
and the night was as the night had been, only now the valley of the
gods was a valley of ice, and where the glacier had been were slopes
and walls of smooth black rock.



When all was over, Wi spoke to the little company who clung to him,
saying:

"The Ice-gods have given birth. The old devil-gods have taken a great
sacrifice of all who served them, but that which I and another worship
has heard our prayer and preserved us alive. Let us go back to the
cave."

So, Wi leading them, they climbed out of the bay in the mountain side
up on to the steep cliff of tumbled ice that had flowed down the
valley, filling it from side to side, purposing to return to the
village. But when they reached its crest and looked toward where the
beach should be and the huts of the people, they sank down, amazed and
terrified. For, behold! no beach was left. Behold! the ice gathered
upon the smaller hills behind the village also had flowed down over it
into the sea, so that where the dwelling places of the people had been
now there was nothing but a rough slope of tumbled ice washed up by
the waves of the troubled sea. The tribe that had dwelt upon this
beach for ages was gone, and with it its habitations, that now lay
buried forever, swept from the face of the world.

Aaka, leaning upon Wi, studied all things in the cold moonlight. Then
she said:

"The curse brought by that fair witch of yours has worked well,
Husband; so well that I wonder what remains for her to do."

"After all that has passed, Wife, such words seem to me to be evil,"
answered Wi. "The people who called upon the Ice-dwellers, where are
they? Surely they have become dwellers in the ice. Yet I who learned
another lesson from her whom you reproach, I who thought by this time
to be a sacrifice, remain alive, and with me all my House. Is this,
then, a time for bitter words, Wife?"

Then Pag spoke, saying:

"As you well know, Wi, never did I put faith in the Ice-gods because
our people have made sacrifice to them and have danced before them for
a thousand years, and now I believe in them less than ever, seeing
that those who worshipped them are swept away, and those who rejected
them live on. The People have gone; not one of them remains alive
except this little company, a handful out of hundreds. They have gone;
they lie buried in the ice, as thousands of years ago the great
Sleeper that fell on N'gae and crushed him, and he who hunted it or by
it was hunted, were buried. There they lie who perchance in their turn
will become gods in a day to come, and be worshipped by the fools that
follow after us. Yet we still breathe, and all the rest being dead,
how shall we save ourselves? The children who were born of the
marriage of those Ice-gods have eaten up our homes; the beach is no
more. Nothing remains. Whither then shall we go who, if we stay here
upon the ice, very soon must perish?"

Wi covered his eyes with his hands and made no answer, for he was
broken-hearted.

Then, for the first time, spoke Laleela, who hitherto had been silent,
saying nothing at all, even when Wi offered himself as the sacrifice:

"Be pleased to hear me," she said. "As the moonlight shows you, the
ice has flowed down over the beach and the huts and the woods beyond.
Yet, on the farther side of the ridge that bounds the valley of the
gods and the little hills beyond, it has not flowed; for there the ice
sheet is flat beneath the snow and cannot stir of its own weight.
Yonder to the east there is a little cave, that in which the boat lies
that brought me to this land, and there I have hidden food. If it
pleases you, let us go to that cave and shelter there."

"Aye, let us go to the cave, for if we stay here upon the ice we shall
perish," said Pag.

So climbing round the foot of the mountain and the hills beyond they
came at length to the open beach where lay some snow but no ice, and
walked by the edge of the sea to the little cave.

Pag and Moananga, going first, reached it before the others. Pag,
peering in, started back, for he saw large eyes looking at him out of
its darkness.

"Have a care," he called to Moananga. "Here are bears or wolves."

The sound of his voice frightened the beasts in the cave, and moving
slowly, these came out on to the beach, whereon they saw that they
were not bears or wolves, but two seals, a large cow and her half-
grown cub, that had refuged there perhaps because they were frightened
by the sound of the glaciers rushing into the sea. They leapt upon the
clumsy beasts and before these could escape, killed them with their
axes.

"Here at least is meat enough to last us for a long while," said Pag,
when the seals were dead. "Now let us skin them before they freeze."

So, helped by Foh, they set to the task and well-nigh finished it by
moonlight before Wi came up with the women. For Tana was so frightened
by the horrors she had seen that Aaka and Laleela must support her,
and thus they could only walk slowly through the snow.

Then, having searched the cave and made sure that now it was empty,
they entered it and lit a fire round which they crouched to warm
themselves, silent and full of terrors.




CHAPTER XIX



WHICH?


Before the coming of the dawn, Wi left the cave and climbed a little
hill behind it that was built up of ancient ice-borne rocks and drift
in which this hollowed cavern lay. This he did because he wished to
look at the land and the sea when the light came; also to be alone and
think. Yet he found that he was not alone, for kneeling behind one of
the rocks was Laleela, praying, with her face turned toward the
sinking moon. When she saw who it was that came, she did not stir but
went on praying, and kneeling at her side he prayed with her, for now
they had one worship, though neither of them altogether understood who
or what they worshipped.

Their prayers finished, they spoke together.

"Strange things have happened, Laleela," said Wi, "and my heart is
pierced because of the people who are dead. I would have offered
myself as a sacrifice, if they sought it, knowing they believed that
thereby a curse would have been taken from them and that what is
believed often comes to pass. Yet I live on and they are slain--every
one of them--and I say that my heart is broken," and for the first
time since Fo-a was murdered, Wi bowed his head and wept.

Laleela took his hand and comforted him, wiping away his tears with
her hair. Then she said in her gentle voice:

"Things have come about as they were decreed, and those who sought
blood have died in blood, crushed to powder by the gods they
worshipped, whether by chance or by the will of That which dwells
yonder, I do not know or seek to learn. Only, Wi, you do ill to wish
to slay yourself or suffer yourself to be slain, and," she added with
a thrill of fear in her voice, "who can be sure that what has been
offered to Heaven, Heaven will not take at its own time?"

"Not I," answered Wi. "Yet, Laleela, what would you have had me do? If
I had refused any sacrifice to those mad folk, they would have done
what they swore and murdered Aaka and Foh and you, all three.
Therefore, a blood offering must be furnished out of my household and
would you have had me name one of you and myself remain alive?"

"I brought the trouble, Wi; surely I should have paid its price.
Indeed, I would have given myself up to them who hated me and sought
my blood, not yours, had not a voice speaking in my breast told me
that in some way you would be spared. Also, at the last, I felt that a
terror was at hand, though what it might be I did not know."

"So, I think, did all of us, Laleela, for last night the air was big
with death. But you do not answer. What would you have thought of me
when the spear was at your throat, had I said, 'Take yonder Laleela
whom you declare a witch. Offer her to your gods and be content!'"

"I should have thought you a wiser man than you are, Wi," she said,
smiling sadly. "Yet, believe me, I thank you who are noble, nor,
should I live ten thousand years, shall I forget. No, never, never
shall I forget."

"If you live ten thousand years, Laleela, perhaps I shall also--where
there is less trouble."

"I am sure that it will be so," she replied simply.

The dawn came, and, standing side by side in silence, they watched it
come. It was a strange and splendid dawn, full of red light which
shone upon the little clouds that floated in the quiet sky and turned
them to shapes of glory. Yes, it was as though Nature, having done her
worst, now lay resting in perfect peace. But, oh! what a sight was
revealed to them. Where the village had been was ice piled so high
that they could see its tumbled mass and pinnacles over the shoulder
of the hill between. The great woods also, where Wi had killed the
aurochs bull, that swelled upward from the beach westward, had
vanished beneath the flood of ice which flowed down upon them from the
mountains that lay behind, which now showed black, robbed of their
white cloak. In front, too, far as the eye could reach, the sea was
covered with a sheet of solid ice, so pressed together by the weight
of the glaciers that had plunged into it from the hills and the valley
of the gods, that it seemed quite smooth and immovable as rock, being
held in place by the headland round which the Red Wanderers had come
in their canoes. All the white world was a desolation and a waste.

"What has chanced?" said Wi, staring about him. "Is the world about to
end?"

"I think not," answered Laleela. "I think that the ice is moving
south, that is all, and that where men lived, there they can live no
more--neither they nor the beasts."

"Then we must perish, Laleela."

"Why so? My boat remains and a store of food, and I think it will hold
us all."

"Your boat cannot float upon ice, Laleela."

"Nay, but being hollowed from one tree it is very thick and strong, so
that we can push it before us until at length we come to open water,
over which we can row away."

"Where to, Laleela?"

"Down yonder to the south, across a stretch of sea that lies beyond
that headland, is the home of my people, Wi. It lies in a very
pleasant land, full of woods and rivers where I think the ice will not
reach, because that sea which borders it, even in winter, is always
warm. Indeed, sometimes ice mountains from the north float into it,
for I have seen them from far away, but there at once they melt. My
people are not as your people, Wi, for they have tamed creatures like
to the bull you slew, and others, from which they draw milk and on
whose flesh they feed. Also they are a peaceful folk who, for a long
while past, have waged no war and live quietly till death takes them."

"Yet you fled away from these people, Laleela."

"Yes, Wi, and now I understand why I fled, but let that be. Also,
although I fled, I think that, should I return, they would welcome me
who am a great woman among them, and any whom I brought with me.
Still, the way is far, and yonder ice is rough and cold, and who
knows? Perchance it would be better to bide here."

"That we cannot do," answered Wi. "Look, all the shore is ice, and all
the woods are ice, and all the sea whence we won the most of our food
is ice, while behind us is nothing but a wilderness of black rock upon
which nothing grows, as I am sure who in past days have hunted the
reindeer across it. Also to the east yonder is a wall of mountains
that we cannot climb, for they are steep and on them the snow lies
thick. Still, let us talk with the others."

So they descended the hillock of piled-up stones, and at the mouth of
the little cave found Aaka standing there like one who waits.

"Are your prayers to the new god finished, Wi?" she asked. "If so, I
would learn whether its priestess gives us leave to eat of the food
which she has stored here, while so many who now are dead were
starving."

Hearing these words, Wi bit upon his lip, but Laleela answered:

"Aaka, all in this place is yours, not mine. Yet of that food, know
that I saved it out of what was served out to me, for a certain
purpose; namely, to store in my boat when I fled away from where I was
not welcome."

Now, Pag, who was standing by, grinned, but Wi said only:

"Have done and let us eat."

So they ate who had tasted nothing since noon on the yesterday, and
when they had filled themselves after a fashion, Wi spoke to them,
saying:

"The home of our forefathers is destroyed, and with it all the people,
of whom we alone are left. Yes, the ice that has piled itself above us
for many years has broken its bounds and, rushing to the sea, has
buried them, as I for one who marked its course from winter to winter,
always thought that it would do one day. Now what is left to us? We
cannot stay here; there is no food. Moreover, doubtless, driven by the
ice, wolves and great bears will come down from the north and devour
us. Therefore, this is my word: That we fly south over the ice,
dragging the boat of Laleela with us till we reach open water, and
then travel across that water to find some warmer land where the ice
has not come."

"You are our master," said Aaka, "and when you command, we must obey.
Yet I hold that the journey we make in Laleela's boat will end in
evil, for us if not for her."

Then Pag spoke, saying:

"Nothing can be worse than the worst. Here certainly we die. Yonder we
may live who in the end cannot do more than die."

"Pag's words are mine," said Moananga when Wi looked toward him, but
Tana was silent because fear had robbed her of all spirit; and Laleela
also held her peace. Only, while they still stared at the ground, the
boy Foh cried out:

"The Chief my father has spoken. Is it for us to weigh his words?"

No one answered, so they rose up and laded the canoe with the food
that Laleela had stored, and the cut-up flesh of the two seals which
now was frozen stiff. The skins of the seals they used, although these
were undressed, for coverings, lashing them over the food with the
paddles and some wood of which others might be made. Lastly, at
Laleela's bidding, they took a young fir tree that lay in the cave
over which in former days the seal pelts had been hung to dry, that it
might serve to make them a mast, though, except Laleela, none of them
knew anything of the use of masts. Also upon their backs they bound
loads of dry wood and seaweed for the making of fire, wrapped up in
such hides as lay in the cave.

These things done, they dragged the boat over the snow to the ice that
covered the sea and away out on to the ice southward, Laleela walking
ahead to guide them and carrying a pole in her hand with which she
tested the ice.

Thus then did Wi and the others bid farewell to the home of their
fathers, which they were never to see again.

For some hours they dragged the boat thus, making but little progress,
for the face of the packed ice was much rougher than it seemed to be
when looked at from the shore, then rested a while and ate some of
their food. When they rose to try to go forward, though by now most of
them thought the task hopeless, Foh cried out:

"Father, this ice moves. When we stopped, those rocks on the headland
were over against us, and now look, they are behind."

"It seems that it is so, but I am not sure," said Wi.

While they discussed the matter, Pag wandered back upon their track.
Presently he returned and said:

"Certainly it moves. The ice sheet has broken behind us and there is
water filled with hummocks that grind against each other between us
and the shore, to which now we cannot return."

Then they knew that a current was bearing them southward, and some of
them were frightened. But Wi said:

"Let us rather be thankful, for so shall we travel faster."

Still they continued to push and drag the boat over the rough ice,
though this they did chiefly that they might keep themselves warm, who
feared that they would freeze if they remained still for too long. So
they toiled all day till, toward nightfall, they came to ice upon
which snow had fallen and lay deep. Moreover, it began to fall again,
so that they must stop and make themselves a kind of hut of snow
blocks, as they knew well how to do, in which hut they crouched all
night to protect themselves from cold.

Next morning they found that the snow had ceased; also that now they
were out of sight of the mountains that stood at the back of the beach
which was their home, though they could still see snow-covered peaks
on the headland to the east of them, very far away. Leaving the hut,
they dragged the boat forward over the surface of the snow which had
frozen, so that now it was easy to travel, and thus made good
progress. All that day, resting from time to time, they went on thus,
till, late in the afternoon, the snow began to grow soft and it was
difficult to draw the boat through it. Therefore they stopped, being
tired, and built themselves another snow hut outside which they lit a
fire. On that fire they cooked some of the seal flesh and ate it
thankfully, and then went into the hut and slept, for they were very
weary.

Next morning they found that the snow was still soft and that, if they
tried to walk on it, they sank in to their ankles, so that it was no
longer possible to drag the boat forward.

"We cannot go forward and we cannot go back," said Wi. "There is but
one thing to do--to stay here, though where that may be I do not know,
for the mountains on the headland have vanished."

Now Tana broke into weeping and Moananga looked sad, but Aaka said:

"Yes, we stay here till we die; indeed, what other end could be looked
for on such a journey, unless we have a witch among us who can teach
us to fly like the swans?" and she glanced at Laleela.

"That I cannot do," answered Laleela, "and the journey was one that
must be tried, or so we all thought. Nor need we die for a long while,
seeing that here we have shelter in the snow hut and enough seal's
flesh to last for many days if we are sparing, and snow that we can
melt to drink. Also I hope that always the ice is bearing us forward,
and it seems to me that the air grows somewhat warmer."

"Those are wise words," said Pag. "Now let us make the hut bigger, and
since we can do nothing more for ourselves, trust to the Ice-gods, or
to those that Laleela and Wi worship, or to any others that there may
be."

So they did these things; also, while their fuel lasted they cooked
the most of the seal flesh after a fashion and set it aside to eat
cold together with the fat, which they swallowed raw.

That day Pag and Moananga spoke much with Laleela, questioning her as
to her journey northward and how long it had taken; about her own land
also, and where it lay--to which she answered as best she could. But
Wi and Laleela talked little together, for whenever they did so Aaka
watched them coldly, which seemed to tie their tongues.

Four more days and nights passed thus, and during this weary night
there was no change, save one, namely, that always the air grew
warmer, by which they knew they were being borne southward, so that at
last the snow began to melt and the walls of their hut to drip. On the
fourth day also they saw behind them, but somewhat to the west, a
mountain of ice that they had not noted before. This mountain seemed
to grow bigger and nearer, as though it were heading toward them, or
they toward it, which told them that all the ice still travelled
though they could not see or feel it move. During that night they
heard terrible rending sounds and felt the ice shake beneath them but,
although it was melting, they did not dare go out of the snow hut to
look whence the sounds came, for a strong wind had begun to blow from
the north, bringing with it clouds that covered the moon.

Toward dawn the wind fell, and presently the sun rose, shining
brightly in a clear sky. Thrusting aside the block of snow that sealed
the entrance hole of the hut, Pag crept out. Presently he returned
and, finding Wi's hand, without speaking, drew him from the hut,
pushing back the snow block after him.

"Look," he said as they rose from their knees, and pointed to the
north.

Wi looked and would have fallen, had not Pag caught him. For there,
not more than a hundred paces away, wedged into the thick floes
whereon they floated, was that great ice mountain which they had seen
before they slept, a tall pinnacle ending in a slope of rough ice. And
lo! there, halfway up the slope, held up between blocks of ice and
stone, stood the great Sleeper!

Oh! there could be no doubt, for the light of the rising sun struck
full upon it. There stood the Sleeper as Wi had seen it for all his
life through the veil of ice, only now its left foreleg was broken off
below the knee. Moreover, this was not all, for among the stones and
ice lay strange, silent shapes shrouded in a powder of snow.

"Here be old friends," said Pag, "if it pleases you to go to look upon
them, Wi, N'gae--no, not N'gae, for of him on whom the Sleeper fell
little would be left; but Urk the Aged and Pitokiti and Hotoa and
Whaka, though no longer will he croak of evil like a raven, and many
others."

"It does not please me," said Wi. Then he heard a voice behind him,
that of Aaka, who said:

"You thought you had left the old gods behind, but see, they have
followed after you, Husband, which I think means no good to Pag and
you, who were the first to look upon them whom both of you have
rejected."

"I do not know what it means, Wife," said Wi, "nor do I ask. Still,
the sight is strange."

Then the others came. Moananga was silent, Tana lifted her hands and
screamed, but Laleela said:

"The evil gods may follow, but we go before them, and never shall they
come up with us."

"That remains to be learned," said Pag.

As he spoke, the ice peak on which they were looking, whereof the base
had been melted by the warmer waters into which it had floated, began
to tremble and to bow toward them. Thrice it bowed thus, then, with a
slow and noble motion, it turned over. Bearing the Sleeper and its
company with it, it vanished into the sea, and where its head had been
appeared its foot, spotted all about with great rocks that it had
brought with it from the land.

"Farewell to the Ice-gods!" said Laleela with a smile, but Wi cried:

"Back! Back! The wave comes!" and seizing Aaka by the hand he dragged
her away.

They fled, all of them, and not too soon for after them followed a
mingled flood of ice and water, cast up by the overturning of the
berg. Near to their snow hut it stopped and began to recede. Yet the
platform upon which that hut stood rocked and trembled.

In his fear and haste to escape, the lad Foh ran past the hut out on
to the snow plain, whence presently he returned, crying:

"The ice has broken, and far away I see land. Come, Father, and look
upon the land."

They ran after him, wading through the snow for some two hundred
paces, till before them they beheld a channel of water wide as the
mouth of a great river, down which the current ran furiously, bearing
with it great blocks of ice. This channel wended its way between two
shores of ice, as a river winds between its banks, and seemed to end
at last in a blue and open sea where there was no ice. Far away, at
the edge of that sea, appeared the land of which Foh had spoken, green
hills between which a large river ran into the sea, and valleys with
woods on either side of them that grew upward from the plains lying at
the foot of the hills, clothing their rounded sides. For a few minutes
only they saw this green and pleasant land. Then a mist that seemed to
arise from where the ice mountain had overturned drove down wind and
hid it.

"Yonder is the shore of my country. I know that river and those
hills," said Laleela.

"Then, the sooner we come there, the better," answered Pag, "for this
ice which has borne us so far is breaking up beneath us."

Breaking up it was indeed, having drifted into those warmer waters, of
which once Laleela had spoken as bathing the coasts of her land.
Rapidly it melted beneath their feet. Cracks appeared in it. One
opened beneath the snow hut, which fell to a shapeless heap.

"To the boat!" cried Wi.

They ran back; they took hold of the canoe and dragged it forward
toward the edge of the ice, that here and there began to yawn. They
came to the edge, the women and Foh were thrust in, Moananga followed,
and Pag also by the command of Wi, who held the stern of the boat to
keep its bow straight in the stream, while Laleela and Moananga got
out the paddles. Wi looked at it and saw that it was very heavy laden;
saw that the water almost ran over the edge of the great hollowed log
whereof it was fashioned, saw, too, that if another man entered into
it and the wind blew a little harder, or if it were struck by one of
the blocks of ice that floated past on the swift current, it would
fill and overset so that all would be drowned.

"Come swiftly, Wi," cried Aaka, and the others also cried, "Come!" for
they found it hard to keep the boat steady.

"I come, I come," answered Wi, and with all his strength thrust at the
stern so that the boat darted out into the midst of the channel and
there being seized by the fierce current, turned and sped away.

Wi went back a few paces and sat himself down upon a floe that was
bedded in the sheet ice watching. As he went, he heard a splash and,
turning, saw Pag swimming toward the ice. Being very strong, he
reached it and by the help of Wi climbed on to its edge.

"Why do you come?" asked Wi.

"That hollow log is very full," answered Pag, "and there are too many
women in it, their chatter troubles me."

Now Wi looked at Pag, and Pag looked at Wi, but neither of them said
anything. They sat upon the floe watching the canoe being borne down
the race between the shores of ice, its head pointing first this way
and then that as though the paddlers were trying to turn it round but
could not. The mist grew thick about it. Then, just before it was
swallowed up in that mist, they saw a tall woman's shape stand up in
the boat and plunge from it into the water.

"Which of them was it?" asked Wi of Pag in a hollow groaning voice.

"That we may learn presently," answered Pag.

Then he threw himself down on the ice and shut his eyes like one who
wishes to sleep.



Thus the vision ended.




CHAPTER XX



THE SUM OF THE MATTER


I, Allan Quatermain, woke up, to notice that, as on the previous
occasion when Lady Ragnall and I took the /Taduki/ together, my trance
must have been brief. Although I had forgotten to look at the time, as
it chanced, I could measure its duration by another method. The
/Taduki/ herb, as I knew, soon burned itself away, yet, when I awoke,
the last little vapour, so thin and faint that it could scarcely be
discerned, was rising from its embers.

Good gracious! I thought to myself, how could all those things have
happened in that unknown land and age in much less time than it takes
the stump of a cigarette to die.

Then I remembered Good, for, although my head seemed rather heavy at
first, my brain was clear enough, and looked at him, not without
alarm, or rather anxiety, for if anything had happened to Good what
would my position be?

There he was in his armchair, his head lying back, staring at me with
his eyes half-opened, much as a cat does sometimes when it is
pretending to be asleep, but is really very wide awake indeed. Also he
resembled something else, a man who was drunk, an effect that was
heightened presently by his trying to speak and producing only
prolonged stutterings and a word that sounded like "whisky."

"No, you don't," I said. "It is far too soon to drink. Alcohol and
/Taduki/ might not agree."

Then Good said a word that he should have left unsaid, sat up, shook
himself, and remarked:

"I say, Wi--for you are Wi, aren't you?--how in the name of the Holy
Roman Empire--or of the Ice-gods and the Sleeper--did I get out of
that canoe, and where's Laleela?"

"Before I answer your questions, which seem absurd, might I ask you,
Good, what you considered your name to be when you were in the canoe
of which you speak?"

"Name? Why, Moananga, of course. Dash it all! Wi, you haven't
forgotten your own brother, have you, who stuck to you through thick
and thin--well, like a brother in a book."

"Then if you were Moananga, why do you not ask after Tana instead of
Laleela?"

"I wonder," said Good reflectively. "I suppose it was because she was
out of the picture just then, lying at the bottom of the canoe
overcome with the horrors, or seasickness, or something, you know,
with that dear boy, Foh, sitting on her. Also, you needn't be jealous,
old chap, for, although I did try to cut in when you were doing the
pious over that tomfool oath of yours and the rest of it, it wasn't
the slightest use. She just smiled me out of court, so to speak, and
like you, made remarks about Tana. But where's Laleela? You haven't
hidden her away anywhere, have you?" and he stared round the room in a
foolish fashion.

"That's just what I want to know," I answered. "Indeed, to tell you
the truth, I never remember wanting to know anything quite so much in
all my life."

"Then I can't tell you. The last I saw of her, she was in the canoe,
trying to get the head of the crazy thing round with a paddle--which I
didn't know how to do."

"Look here, Good," I said. "This is a serious matter, so pull yourself
together and tell me exactly what you remember just before you woke."

"Only this. The canoe was bobbing about, being carried shoreward down
that infernal tide race or current between the two banks of ice, at, I
should say, not less than eight or nine knots. Moreover, it was
rocking because that fiddle-headed dwarf, Pag, nearly overset it when
he jumped out like a seal from a rock and began to swim toward the ice
bank we had left, because he thought we were all going to be drowned,
I suppose. So there remained only Aaka, Laleela, Tana, Foh, and
myself. Laleela, as I have told you, was trying to get the craft
round, Tana was wailing and sobbing, that plucky lad Foh was quite
still--I can see his white face and big eyes now, and Aaka, sitting in
the bottom of the canoe, gripping the thwarts with both her
outstretched hands but still looking very dignified, was making
unpleasant remarks to Laleela as to her having murdered you, Wi,
Aaka's husband and her lover, or something of the sort, to which
Laleela returned no answer. Then, just as I was shoving away a cake of
floating ice which cut my hand, everything went out like a candle, and
here I am. For heaven's sake, tell me, where is Laleela?"

"I am afraid, old fellow, we shall ask ourselves that question for the
rest of our days yet never learn the answer," I replied solemnly.
"Listen, I saw a little more than you did. Pag reached the ice bank
and I pulled him to my side. He said that he had jumped out of the
canoe because it was too full and there were too many women in it for
his liking. But what the dear chap really meant was that he preferred
to return to die with me."

"Good old Pag!" ejaculated Moananga--I mean, Good.

"After that," I went on, "the canoe ran into the spindrift which the
wind lashed up, and the sea fog----"

"Always get it with thawing ice," interrupted Good. "Once nearly lost
in it myself off the coast of Newfoundland."

"--and for a moment Pag and I lost sight of it. It reappeared between
two billows of fog a hundred yards or more away, and then--well, then
we saw a tall woman spring suddenly from the canoe into the sea. But,
as you will remember, both Aaka and Laleela were tall, exactly of a
height indeed, and neither of us could tell which of them it was that
the sea took. Next instant the mist closed in again."

"Did you see the woman rise up in the canoe? Aaka was sitting down,
you remember."

"No, we only saw the spring."

"That sounds like Laleela," said Good, "for she was standing. And yet
I do not think it can have been, for she was doing all she knew to try
to bring the craft round, thinking to creep back to fetch you by the
edge of the ice where the current did not run so fiercely. The last
thing she said was to call to me to get out the other paddle and help.
Indeed, I had it in my hand but, being a landlubber, hardly knew how
to use it."

"I don't think Laleela could have done such a thing, Good. Suicide was
against her principles. Indeed, she reproached me upon that very
matter. Also, her own country was just ahead of her, and she would
wish to reach it, if only to make sure that Foh and Aaka--yes, Aaka--
met with a good reception. Yet who knows?"

"Aaka had a very bitter tongue," remarked Good. "Also, by then,
Laleela saw that we could never get back against that race, and she
was mad with grief; so, as you say--who knows?" and he groaned, while
I--well, never mind what I did.

For a time there was silence between us, a very depressing silence,
because both of us were overcome. It was broken by Good asking humbly
enough if I thought he might have some whisky now.

"I don't know, and I don't care, but for my part I mean to risk it," I
said, and going to the side table I helped myself freely, as did Good,
only more so.

Teetotallers may say what they like, but alcohol in moderation often
is a friend in trouble. So, at least, we found, for, as we put that
whisky down, our spirits rose considerably.

"Look here!" said Good presently while he lit his pipe and I occupied
myself in hiding away that confounded /Taduki/ outfit, which I both
hated and blessed. I hated it because it seemed to be possessed by an
imp which, like a will-'o-the-wisp, led one on and on to the edge of
some great denouement, and then, in the very moment of crisis,
vanished away, leaving one floundering in a bog of doubt and wonder. I
blessed it because these dreams it gave were, to me at any rate, so
very suggestive and interesting.

"Look here!" repeated Good. "You are a clever old boy in your way, and
one who thinks a lot. So be kind enough to tell me what all this
business means. Do you suggest that you and I have been reading some
chapters out of a former existence of our own?"

"I suggest nothing," I answered sharply; "the thing is beyond me. But
if you want to know, I don't much believe in the former existence
solution. Does it not occur to you that we must all of us, perhaps
fifty thousand, perhaps five hundred thousand years ago, have had just
such ancestors as Wi and the rest of them? And is it not possible that
this drug may have the power of awakening the ancestral memory which
has come down to us with our spark of life through scores of
intervening forefathers?"

"Yes, that's right enough. And yet, Allan, in a way, the thing is too
perfect. Remember that we understood and used the language of those
prehistoric beachcombers, although we have forgotten every word of it
now--or at least I have. Remember that we saw, not only our own
careers, but those of other people with whose ancestral memories we
have nothing to do; moreover, that some of those people reminded us,
or at any rate me, of folk whom I have known in this life; just as
though the whole lot of us had reappeared together."

"That's the very point, Good. Men are queer bundles of mystery. For
the most part, they seem quite commonplace, what might be called
matter-of-fact, yet I believe that inside there are few who are not
stuffed with imagination, as our dreams show us. Supposing that we are
dealing with our own ancestral pasts; if that be so, we could quite
well invent the rest, using the staff that lies to our hands, namely
our knowledge of others with whom we have been intimate in life. These
would be the foundation upon which the dreams were built up, the bits
of glass that make the pattern in the kaleidoscope."

"If so, all I have to say is that your kaleidoscope is an uncommonly
clever machine, because anything more natural than those dirty people
upon the beach I never knew, Allan. Still, one thing seems to support
your argument. Wi, the great hunter of the tribe, who by birth and
surroundings was a most elementary savage, showed himself much in
advance of his age. He made laws; he thought about the good of others;
he resisted his perfectly natural inclinations; he adopted a higher
religion when it was brought to his knowledge; he was patient under
provocation; he offered himself up as a sacrifice to the gods in whom
he no longer believed, because his people believed in them and he
thought that his voluntary death would act as a kind of faith cure
among them, which is one of the noblest deeds I have ever heard of
among men. Lastly, when he saw that a confounded hollowed-out log,
which by courtesy may be called a canoe or a boat, was overcrowded and
likely to sink in a kind of ice-packed mill race, he thrust it out
into the stream and himself remained behind to die, although it
contained all that he cared about--his wife, another woman who loved
him, his son, and perhaps, I may add, his brother. I say that the man
who did these things, not to mention others, was a hero and a
Christian martyr rolled into one, with something of the saint and
Solon, who I believe was the first recorded lawgiver, thrown in. Now,
I ask you, Allan, could such a person by any possibility have existed
in paleolithic or pre-paleolithic times at that period of the world's
history when one of the ice ages was beginning? Also the same question
may be asked of Laleela."

"You must remember," I answered, "that Wi was not such a hero as you
suppose. He offered to sacrifice himself chiefly in order to save his
family, or one of them, just as most men would do in like
circumstances. As regards Laleela, she and everything about her were
mysterious--her origin, her noble patience, and especially her self-
control. But it is quite obvious that she belonged to another stratum
of civilization, I presume that which we call neolithic, since she
told me--I mean Wi--that her people grew crops; kept cows, with other
domestic animals; had some advanced form of religion with a divinity
that was symbolized by the moon; and so forth. Well, there is nothing
strange about all this, since now we know that in prehistoric days
races in very different stages of advancement existed in the world at
the same time. It is quite possible that Wi and his company lived in
their paleolithic simplicity, let us say somewhere in Scotland (those
red-headed wanderers who descended upon them suggest Scotland), while
Laleela and her people existed perhaps in the south of Ireland or in
France, where the climate was much warmer and the ice did not come."

"Probably; Wi and Co. might have lived anywhere in a cold district and
gone to any warmer shore--perhaps one washed by the Gulf Stream,"
answered Good. "At any rate, one thing is obvious. If there is
anything in this dream of ours, it tells of a tragedy that must often
have happened in the world. I mean, the coming of an ice age."

"Yes," I said. "All about the northern shores there must have been
little collections of miserable people like to those over whom Wi
ruled, each of them perhaps thinking itself alone in the world, and
time on time the ice at intervals of tens or hundreds of thousands of
years must have descended upon them and crushed them out, except a few
survivors who fled south. Doubtless, the tragedy of Wi was common,
though nobody thinks of such things to-day when, for aught we know, we
may be living in an interval between two ice ages. Not long ago, I was
reading of the flint pits at Brandon in Norfolk, where it is said
that, in the far past, lived tribes of flint-workers. Then, it seems,
came an ice age, and after it was over appeared other tribes of flint-
workers, separated from the first by untold epochs of time. But one
might talk of such things all night."

"And all to-morrow, Allan. But you have not answered my question. How
do you account for a man like Wi at that period of the world's
history?"

I took a little more whisky and soda to give myself time to think.
Then I answered easily enough, at least to my mind.

"The world they tell us now has probably been inhabitable and
therefore inhabited by man for millions of years. Now, Wi, if he ever
existed, by comparison lived quite recently, for he knew how to make
fire, how to trap beasts, and many other things. I suggest to you, my
dear Good, that we have not really advanced very much since the days
of Wi. The skulls that are found of people of or before his period
have the same, or sometimes an even larger, brain capacity than our
own. All the first and more essential developments of the human race
took place infinite ages before the birth of Wi. Some outstanding
individuals must have conceived the idea of making and enforcing
necessary laws and of putting a stop to infanticide. Why should not Wi
have been one of these? He may have gone ahead too fast--as, in fact,
he did--but perhaps the memory of his laws survived through his wife
Aaka, or his brother Moananga, or his son Foh, if they escaped, and
were repeated and improved upon by future generations of his blood. In
short, Good, although I think that men have grown cleverer as a race,
I do not believe that the high-water mark of individuals among them
has advanced greatly since the times of such as Wi, which, after all,
in the history of the world, and indeed of the human race, are but
yesterday. For the rest, in my own life I have known many who are
called savages in Africa who knew as little or less than Wi and yet,
in similar circumstances, would have done all that he did, and more."

"That's a new idea," said Good. "Perhaps we civilized people vaunt
ourselves too much."

"Perhaps," I answered, "for civilization as we know it is very young
and a great sham. I don't know and it isn't worth bothering about. All
I know is that I wish I had never dreamed that dream, which has given
me a new set of sorrows that cannot be forgotten."

"That's the point," exclaimed Good. "Now there was Tana. She was a
jealous sort of woman, and we quarrelled often, especially when I
began to make up to Laleela. And I, well, I was a natural man, much as
I am to-day, so, as I say, we quarrelled. Yet, after all, I was very
fond of Tana; she was my wife for many years, and she bore children
whom both of us loved, children that died, as most children died among
the tribe. As for the rows between us, what do they matter? Now that I
have come to know her, I can never forget Tana."

"It is the same here," I answered. "That boy Foh, and his sister Fo-a
whom you remember that brute-man Henga murdered--for example. Well,
they may be but dream children, but henceforward they are mine. At
this very moment I tell you that I could burst into tears over the
murder of Fo-a, and that my heart aches over the loss of Foh, and yet
I suppose that they are only fantasies, drug-born fantasies. See what
this cursed /Taduki/ has done for us! To the bereavements and miseries
of our own lives, it has added another series. It has suggested to us
that we have endured other lives, other losses, and other miseries,
and yet it has not helped us to solve their problems. Shall we ever
see any of these people again? We who seemed to mix with them still
exist. Do they exist also, and if so have we any hope of finding
them?"

"Are you quiet certain, Allan, that we haven't found some of them
already, although it was but to lose them once more. Now, although I
never saw him, you have often told me of the Hottentot called Hans who
served you from your youth until he died, still trying to serve you by
saving your life. Well, isn't there some resemblance between that
Hottentot and Pag?"

"Undoubtedly there is," I answered, "although Pag the Wolf-man was a
bit more primeval."

"Then, as regards Laleela--how about that Lady Ragnall who left you
the fortune which, like a donkey, you refused? Do you see any
connection between them?"

"Not much," I answered, "except that they were both priestesses of, or
at any rate in some way connected with, the moon. But, of course, I
know very little of Laleela's life. She appeared from a southern land,
but exactly why she left it, I cannot tell, because she never told me.
At that time her age must have been, well, what do you put it at,
Good?"

"Anywhere between twenty-eight and thirty-two, I should say."

"That's about it. Well, in those days, a woman of her beauty and
station must have had lots of private history behind her at, let us
say, thirty. Indeed she hinted as much more than once. But as she
never stated what it was, there is very little to go on, and
identification becomes impossible.

"Look here, let us stop this before we go cracked. Under the influence
of an African drug, we have seen strange things, or think that we have
seen them. We have seen an ancient, barbaric tribe living at the foot
of the glaciers upon a desolate beach, collecting their food from year
to year as best they could with their primitive weapons, and evolving
a kind of elementary civilization. Thus they were ruled by a chief who
might be killed when any stronger man appeared, as in a herd of game
the old bull is killed by the young bull. We have seen a man of
strength and ability arise who tried to make new and better laws and
to introduce justice, and who, under the influence of a foreign and
more advanced woman, ultimately turned from the worship of fierce
fetish gods supposed to dwell in the ice they dreaded, to a purer if
still elementary faith. We have seen the fate fall upon him that
overtakes almost all reformers, also that this ice was not feared in
vain, since it swept down and destroyed his people, as indeed it must
often have done in the history of the world, and perhaps will do again
in the future."

"Yes, we have seen all that," said Good, "but if it wasn't real, what
is the use of it? Dreams have not much practical value."

"Are you sure about that, Good? Are you sure that Life, as we know it,
is anything more than a /Taduki/ dream?"

"What do you mean, Allan?"

"I mean that perhaps already we may be plunged into and be a part of
immortality, and that this immortality may have its nights as well as
its days--dream-haunted nights of which this present life of ours is
one."

"Steady, old fellow. You are running full steam into strange waters
and without a chart."

"Quite true," I answered. "Let us get back into the channel between
the lighted buoys. To my mind our experience to-night has been very
instructive. Whether it be real or imaginary, it has taught me what
must have happened to our forefathers tens or hundreds of thousands of
years ago. Let us suppose that it was all a dream or delusion, and
think of it as nothing else. Still, it has been a most fascinating
dream, a kind of lightning flash, showing us a page of the past. There
let us leave it, locking it up as an individual experience not meant
for the benefit of others. To advertise what are called hallucinations
is not wise."

"I quite agree with you, Allan," said Good, "and I mean to keep my
experience upon that beach wherever it may have been, very much to
myself. Only in my leisure time I intend to take up the study of the
ice ages and the glacial drift.

"And now, about those snipe (it is odd, by the way, that even in those
days you seem to have been a sportsman and a hunter), will you bring
your spear--I mean gun--and come to-morrow?"



THE END





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