Ner was a little distance behind me as we crept slowly along, looking carefully from side to side, then glancing ahead as far as we could see. Something big was moving among the small trees, but they grew so thickly that I could not see what it was. It must be very strong and not afraid of any enemies, or it would not be making so much noise. We stood very still and listened, then went slowly ahead even more carefully than before. As we came to a place where the bushes were not so thick, I saw a strange-looking head high up among the branches of a small tree. It was swinging from side to side, but we were still too far away to see what it was doing there, and other bushes and trees hid the body from us.
The head was not like anything I had seen before, and I wanted to get close enough to see more clearly. I did not think it could be any animal that had come near our caves. Perhaps neither Ja nor Ak had ever killed one of these, and I could tell them about him.
This strange beast might be very dangerous, so he must not see us. Never, I think, had Ner and I crawled so quietly through the woods. Every spot had to be tried carefully before it bore weight of either hand or foot, and any dead branch or twig must be avoided lest it snap and bring much trouble upon us. Often we stopped and held up a dampened finger to the wind; then, if the wind was blowing away from us, we circled around until it was blowing toward us. It was slow work, but we had learned patience, and did not hurry. Sometimes those who went too quickly did not come back again.
We knew we must be very near when we could hear the branches being broken just ahead of us. As I lay close to the ground, I saw two huge feet, and I pointed them out to Ner, who was now close behind me, but neither of us could see any other legs. Where could they be? All the other animals I had seen had four legs-only the birds had two.
All about us were thick bushes, but I did not think it would be safe to go nearer. We must wait until he came out where we could see him more clearly. So we lay there, using our eyes, but letting our mouths make no sound. We could wait to talk until we were far away.
There was a sound of breaking branches; then we thought some heavy body had fallen to the ground. We saw the bushes being violently pushed aside, and the monster * stood before us. As he came nearer, I saw that he was no longer on two legs, but walked on all four. He was even bigger than I had expected, and because he was so huge he seemed very close to us. We lay with only our eyes moving. Now was the time to play the keeping-still game that Ma-ai had taught me so long ago.
[* Probably an Iguanodon. It was herbivorous and in spite of its size fell an easy prey to the larger Carnivora. It has long been extinct.]
With his head held high above the bushes, he stood for a moment looking around, his little eyes glancing here and there, but never quite at us.
I think he must have been nearly as big as the mammoth, but, large as he was, I did not feel afraid as I had when I first saw a mammoth. With his huge head and large ears, the mammoth had looked as if he could plunge through the forest and drive his long horns through anything that stood in his way. But this big fellow did not seem like a fighter. He had a small head, too small for so large a body, and he had no horns with which he could strike an enemy. His tail was short and thick, and his belly hung close to the ground. Even his feet were not alike. The two front ones looked more like hands or paws, while his hind feet were split, and I knew that he would leave a pointed footprint somewhat like that of a deer, but of course much larger.
I did not think he could run far, or even walk far, on such feet. Perhaps all he could do easily was to stay in one place and fill his huge belly. If attacked by a smaller animal, he might crush him with the weight of his forward paws. Against animals of his own size he would be helpless.
Because of his great size Ner and I, who felt very small, watched him and did not move while he was looking in our direction. Perhaps he could run faster than we, and one slap of his great feet would crush us to the ground.
Finally he waddled toward a young tree, and rearing on his hind legs, seized some of the upper branches in his paws. These he pulled toward him, and filled his already fat stomach with the green leaves and tender bark. If these were the only food he wanted, he would waste no time looking for us. Since we could not be sure about this, we moved away slowly, and left him standing almost erect on his hind legs, with his head buried in the top of a small tree.
Farther up the runway our arrows brought down a fine buck with ten points on its horns. Here was enough meat for our needs, and we should not be empty-handed when we came to the caves of the strangers.
After we had eaten and were sitting near the burning logs, I saw that some of the earth near the ashes of the fire was lighter in color than the rest. When I squeezed a handful of it, it did not fall apart as other dirt did, so I rolled it in my hands until it became soft. Because it stayed in whatever shape I pressed it, I tried to make it look like the strange eater of leaves that we had just seen, but I had no luck. At last I threw it into the fire. No animal ever looked as I had shaped my piece of dirt. I could not take this back to Ja and tell him I had seen an animal like that.
With another lump of the light-colored earth I tried again, but with no better luck. On our cave wall at home I could make a few lines look like a wolf or even a bear, but I could not make a piece of mud look like anything but a piece of mud. So I squeezed it all together again, thrust my fist into the mass, and idly moved it around while I watched the fire. Before I lay down for the night, I tossed the lump into the hot coals, although I knew it was not the right kind of food for Fire. It turned red, as wood does in the fire, but it did not fall apart into ashes, as wood does. It was still a lump of earth, and I could still see where my hand had pressed into it. Even Fire had not changed it.