Og, Son of Fire
Chapter 1, "The Call of Cooked Meat"
Chapter 2, "The Fire Demon"
Chapter 3, "The Crack in the Earth"
Cowering, wild-eyed with fear, under the sheltering overhang of a rugged cliff, was a boy.
illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull
THE Earth rocked. The sky was of purple blackness. The nauseating stench of burning sulphur filled the air. Thunder rumbled, and growled constantly under the earth crust to be answered by shattering crashes that seemed to come from the heavens, and with each terrific impact a mountain vaguely outlined in the distance trembled and shook and huge fissures opened down its side from which bubbled out great clots of lurid red molten lava, the light of which reflected on the billowing clouds of thick yellow smoke vomiting from the crater. Off through the night like giant reptiles of fire these streams of lava flowed, crawling slowly down the mountain side, sliding around great boulders, or pausing a moment to fill huge cracks in the earth's crust before proceeding on their serpentine way into the valley, where a veritable molten lake of lava was slowly forming. A great volcano after a lifetime of slumber had awakened.
Cowering, wild-eyed with fear, under the sheltering overhang of a rugged cliff on a hillside far beyond the valley that was slowly filling with lava, was a boy, the sole human witness to this terrible cataclysmic disturbance. Beside him shivering and whimpering were two hairy, dog-like creatures, wolf-dog cubs, who, like the boy, had sought the shelter of this massive rock hoping that here they would in some way find a measure of protection in the face of this horrible disaster. The boy was the only survivor of a colony of cliff dwelling humans who had lived in the caves near by, but who had fled the section in panic when the Fire Demon in the mountain had begun to blast the earth by letting loose his fiery serpents from the mountain. The wolf-dog cubs were all that were left of a pack of gray-black hunters caught in the valley with the first outburst of the eruption, and unable to gain the hillside where the cubs had been left by their wary mother.
For the space of two suns and two starlights they had crouched there. The boy guessed it was that long. They had seen neither sun nor stars. Night and day had been the same under that curling yellow smoke pall. Perhaps the Fire Demon had put out both the sun and the stars and they would never shine again. The boy did not know. He did know that he was tired and that he had missed many sleeps. Despite his fear, which still gripped him, his eyes would close and his head would fall forward even though he fought to keep awake. If he had to die he wanted to see death come. He did not want it to stalk upon him while he slept. But despite his overwhelming fear, and his will power, which was strong for one of his kind, sleep mastered him and finally in the face of this tornado of smoke and fire that seemed to threaten destruction to the very earth itself, his head dropped forward, his eyes closed and he slept the dull, heavy sleep of utter physical exhaustion.
HE slept in a very strange manner. He did not lie down flat as human beings do to-day, nor did he curl up on his side as did the wolf cubs. Instead he slept sitting on his haunches, his body drawn in and his drooping though muscular shoulders hunched over his knees. His head had dropped forward between his knees and his big, long-fingered hands were clasped across the back of his neck. Why he slept thus he did not know. It seemed to him the most natural and most comfortable position. He could not understand that he was obeying the protective instincts of Nature; that his big hands were clasped about the back of his neck to protect the arteries and nerve centers there, and that the long hair on the back of his hands and forearms and upper arms grew in a manner that made all hairs point downward when his arms were in this position, thus shedding rain or moisture. It would require a long stretch of the imagination to connect this being with the humans of to-day, 500,000 years removed. His legs were short, being but a few inches longer than his very long and very strong arms. His head was set on a pair of sloping shoulders, massive for one of his short stature, and his neck was thick and corded with muscles. His ears were small and be had perfect control over them, for this hairy boy had very acute senses. His nose he controlled the same way, his nostrils dilating or contracting to gather in new odors, or shut out those that were strong and offensive to his delicate sense of smell. His mouth was strong and well armed with short, strong teeth. His jaw was broad and massive; a trifle too large for his head it seemed. His eyes were brown and set far apart under almost shaggy, bushing brows, and his forehead was broad and high for one of his race.
For hours this primitive boy slept, and although his quick ears and sensitive nose gathered in every new sound and odor, they failed to register on the dulled brain, so great was his exhaustion. Likewise the two wolf-dog cubs, snuggled close to his hairy hips for warmth, slept, for they, too, were worn out beyond the point where they could control their physical selves. And as they slept the clash of the elements grew less violent. The thunder claps and rumblings beneath the earth's surface became less frequent and gradually ceased entirely, the sulphuric yellow smoke pall thinned out enough to let the sun, a huge round ball of fire it seemed through the thick yellow mist, shine dimly. The volcano now threw out great plumes of white steam. The lava ceased to bubble over the sides of the crater, and the lurid red streams that coursed down its sides began to lose their color and likewise their motion. They were cooling into solid masses.
It was hunger that finally awoke the hairy boy. For many days and nights he had been without food. The first day of his refuge under the overhanging cliff he was secretly glad to find the wolf cubs there. They insured him against starvation. But during the wild hours that followed he thought very little of his stomach. Only once did he realize that he was hungry, but when he faced the situation of killing one of the cubs he hesitated. Not through any sense of honor, or because of any sentiment, for as yet he possessed very little of either. He hesitated at killing either of them for the simple reason that alive they afforded companionship. Dead and eaten he would be alone and he feared to be alone in the face of this overpowering disaster that seemed to threaten him.
AWAKENING, however, and noting with a sense of relief that the disturbance was over and that the volcano was slowly settling back to normal, his fear began to leave him and he began to pay more attention to the hunger pangs that assailed his gaunt stomach. He looked down at the wolf cubs, still sleeping, huddled close to his side; then lest they awaken, because his eyes were on them, as he knew they would, he reached out swiftly with two hairy hands and grabbed the cubs by the nape of the neck. They awoke with frightened yelps and forthwith began kicking and snapping.
The hairy boy lifted them into the air and watched them struggle while just the ghost of a grim smile puckered the corners of his mouth and eyes. He needed but to close the grip of his strong fingers on their throats and in a few minutes they would be choked to death. Then he would tear the hide from their bodies with the aid of his teeth and a sharp stone or two, and his meal would be ready. Many times before had he gnawed the flesh of wolf cubs from the bone, and while he did not like it as well as he did the flesh of the wild horse, or the great moose, or bison, that had been the meat of his people, he knew that it would taste wonderful under the circumstances.
But while he sat there holding the squalling, kicking cubs at arm's length his attention was suddenly arrested by an odor that was almost overpowering in its appeal. Instead of the acrid stinging smell of the sulphur smoke there came to him an odor that was laden with the meat scent, yet it was so subtly different, so irresistible, that his mouth began to drool water from the corners, while his eyes grew big and round. Transfixed he slowly dropped the wolf cubs to the stone ledge, although he kept restraining fingers wound in the hair of their necks. He did not mean to lose a possible meal by letting them get away but he did not want to eat them if he could possibly find the origin of this delightful hunger smell. For a long time he sat there under the cliff, his nostrils working furiously to catch every subtler scent of this enticing odor. His ears were cocked forward as if he hoped that they too might help him locate the source of this wonderful food smell.
As for the wolf-dog cubs, they were famished too, and the odor was just as overpowering to them. Their feet once more on the ground, they paid small heed to the restraining fingers about their necks. Their black noses were pointed up the wind and they were sniffing eagerly and whining too and saliva was dripping from their mouths.
Although none of the three knew it, they were for the first time smelling roasted meat. Somewhere down there in the valley animals had been trapped in the lava, killed and cooked, but since no one of the hairy boy's tribe had ever mastered fire he did not know what cooked meat really was. He did know, however, as be sat there on the ledge, that never in his life had he smelled anything that made him so hungry as this odor did; indeed it was so overpowering that it presently made him forget the wolf cubs, the danger of the Fire Demon in the volcano, the fear that was always constant in his people of going very far from the cave or sheltering rock save in packs or droves, and everything else, and almost before he knew what he was about he began to climb from the shelf or rock under the cliff and make his way down the hillside into the steam filled valley of the hot lava, a place where he never in the world would have had the courage or temerity to venture were it not for that intoxicating odor that grew stronger and stronger into his nostrils as he descended the hillside.
The Fire Demon
THE hairy boy followed the wolf cubs. These half famished animals, once released, were even quicker than he was in scrambling off of the ledge and down the hillside. The boy watched them go and followed after them at a remarkably swift pace considering his short legs.
He walked stooped over as if his massive shoulders and head were too heavy for his stocky legs to carry, and when he scrambled over rocks he occasionally stooped very low and used his long arms as forelegs, resting the weight of his body on clenched hands, the knuckles of which were used as the soles of his forefeet. But this was only occasionally. He preferred to walk on two feet, although it did seem to be an effort. He did not know, of course, that he was only a few thousand years removed from ancestors who walked on four feet and lived in trees and that his group of hairy men were only just learning, comparatively speaking, to stand erect.
As he shambled down the hill other sensations besides that of hunger began to manifest themselves. He realized that he was approaching the domains of the Fire Demon. The atmosphere grew warmer, which troubled him a little. Then as he got further down the hillside he found clouds of white steam swirling about on the wind. These struck fear to his heart. Smoke or steam were agents of the Fire Demon and to be avoided. He paused in his hurry and wondered whether it was safe to go further. But still the intoxicating odor assailed him and urged him on. He crouched beside a big rock and watched with eager eyes the progress of the wolf cubs who were making their way through the steamy mist with caution. Yet they kept on, and the hairy boy seeing that nothing had yet happened to them screwed up his courage and followed after them, always watchful and alert.
The fog grew thicker. Ahead he seemed to hear a soft hissing sound. There was an occasional subterranean rumble too. This made cold chills race up and down his spine and the hair between his shoulders began to bristle, a sign that fear was making him ready for fight. He stopped now and crouched irresolutely beside a stone for a long time, so long that the wolf cubs became lost to him in the mist. He debated in his slow brain whether he should go on or turn back. Thinking was a hard process for him. It took him a long time to come to a decision. Presently, however, he found himself reasoning thus: he was hungry, near to starving; he was foodless now because the wolf cubs were gone, but they had gone on into the mist and until he had lost sight of them nothing had happened to them. If nothing had happened to them perhaps it was safe for him to go on, then too that enchanting odor was strong, very strong. That in the end mastered his fears and he pushed on.
DEEPER and deeper into that mysterious and awesome steam blanket he penetrated, his courage screwed up to its highest notch. He felt he was very brave; indeed he knew be was most brave for he knew that none of the other hairy people would dare venture so far into the domains of the terrible Fire Demon. But then he had the example of the wolf-dog cubs, his terrific hunger and that overpowering odor to carry him on. Presently he discovered that the ground was quite warm even to his feet that had protective pads of callous skin nearly an inch thick.
Some of the rocks were hot. He stepped on one, and with a grunt of surprise jumped aside. Had one of the Fire Demon's evil spirits bitten him! That burn took a great deal of courage out of him and it was some time before he could force himself to go on. When he did start forward he avoided every stone and trod the ground with care.
Suddenly through the mist he heard a sharp yelp. It was one of the wolf-dog cubs. The hairy boy knew their language. This was the yelp of one cub driving the other away from something to eat. The boy rushed forward determined that if there was food to be had he wanted it before the cubs devoured it. A moment later he saw a body prone on the ground. One of the wolf cubs was standing on it and tearing great strips of flesh from it which it devoured with great gusto. But there were other forms on the ground. The hairy boy saw them everywhere. A band of horses had been caught in the valley by the eruption of the volcano and killed by the terrific heat. They were little horses with thin legs that ended in three toed feet.
With a cry of joy the all but famished boy hurried forward for he recognized in the dead horses a treat that rarely fell to the hairy people. It was only by means of the greatest skill in hunting and the concerted effort of the whole colony that one of these horses, veritable antelopes, was ever killed or captured, and when this happened the whole colony had a feast for the flesh was the most desirable meat attainable then.
But when the boy reached the nearest of the band of dead horses he stopped and fear showed in his eyes. The horse was dead; smitten by the hand of the Fire Demon. Its flesh and hide looked far different from that of any horse he had ever seen. Something had happened. But whatever that something was the hairy boy knew it was also responsible for that delectable odor that he had trailed down the hillside. He could not understand that the horse, in fact all of the horses of the band, for there were several hundred scattered about, had been killed by the intense heat of the lava and roasted to a turn.
He circled the first horse suspiciously and looked it over thoroughly. It was the one on the top of which the wolf-dog cub was standing and tearing away luscious morsels. The boy watched the cub. It ate and ate like a veritable glutton, yet nothing strange or out of the ordinary seemed to happen to it. The feast of the cub and the odor of roasted horse were too much for him. He approached the carcass and reached over to where the cub was feasting. The cub growled and snarled at him. This made the hairy boy angry and he cuffed it so hard that he knocked it to the ground. Then he tore off a strip of flesh that the cub had been chewing at and tasted it.
Never in all his life had anything passed his lips that gave him greater pleasure. Horse meat had always seemed wonderful but this horse meat upon which the hand of the Fire Demon had been laid was beyond anything he had ever tasted. Fear, superstition and all else were dominated by his overpowering hunger and he crouched beside the cooked horse and glutted himself; indeed even when his paunch was distended so that his hairy skin was tight, he still pulled off shreds of meat and chewed on them. And as he sat there he felt very comfortable and very happy despite the fact that steam clouds swirled about him. At this he wondered and as he wondered his primitive brain began to reason.
It was a long slow process then and very hard. Sometimes when his reasoning got too deep or too complex he found his thoughts wandering and it was always with an effort that he brought his mind back to the problem of why he was so comfortable. In doing this the hairy boy was perhaps the first of us humans to mentally discipline himself and solve a problem. There were only a few thinkers among the hairy people and their thoughts did not go beyond the making of a stone hammer. They could not even think to the point of providing clothing to help keep themselves warm.
But gradually the hairy boy worked it out. Heat was the reason for his comfortable feeling. The atmosphere was delightfully warm, the ground was warm; so wonderfully warm that he stretched himself at full length upon it. The food he had eaten was warm. Assuredly heat was the reason. The only warmth he had ever known was the warmth of the sun, but never had he been able to get as close to real warmth as here. And only occasionally of late years was the sun so warm as the old men of the colony said it used to be, while the cold had gone on year after year being more bitter until the hair of the hairy folk grew thicker and thicker. The boy did not know that a great change was in process; that the earth's axis had swung slowly out of position and that year after year the great ice caps about the poles were edging their way toward the equator and that centuries later great glaciers would cover the land miles deep with ice. Neither did he know that the volcanic eruption he had witnessed was a forerunner of this great change.
He did know though that the nights were very cold and that the days were not the tropical days the old and weazened hairy men told about and as he lay there prone on the warm earth struggling with this new found power of reason, he wondered after all whether the Fire Demon was the fearsome thing the hairy people believed it to be. Here was good that it gave him: the good of warm food, warm air, warm ground to put his back against yet, and he realized it with a shudder, here were these hundreds of dead horses on which he and the wolf-dog cubs had feasted, mute testimony of the wrath of the Fire Demon. Why was it that one who possessed so much good could be so fearful? Why was it but here the problem became too perplexing for even the hairy boy and, being full of stomach and warm of body, he fell asleep, probably the first human being to sleep prone and lying on his back.
And as he slept the wolf cubs, seeing strange shapes in the swirling steam clouds, and hearing strange guttural sounds as of huge animals eating, searched him out and crept closer to him. They were frightened at these menacing apparitions, and being motherless they looked to the hairy boy for protection, for somehow they felt that it was his presence that had kept them safe from harm up there on the hillside under the cliff.
A loud chattering gibberish of sounds greeted his curiosity and at the same time Og beheld in the lower branches of the tree over his head three big forms, that stormed at him a perfect tirade of ape language.
The Crack in the Earth
IT seemed strange to the hairy boy that he should awaken with the same thoughts in his brain that he had gone to sleep with. Why did they persist? He could not understand, yet his brain still turned over the problem of why the Fire Demon, who could give so much that was good, could also destroy hundreds of horses, the fleetest and wariest of the animals he knew. He could not answer the question but as he pondered it he began to understand that if all the good of warmth could be had from the Fire Demon perhaps it would be possible to make friends with him and not fall a victim to his wrath. The hairy boy did not know just how this could be done but his interest was stirred beyond anything heretofore.
He got up, and although still bloated with food, he could not resist tearing off a strip or two more of the roasted horse, then munching on one of these he began wandering through the swirling steam, the wolf cubs following him.
Presently he found himself walking through a layer of black ash that was still warm and felt very comfortable to his feet. He knew as he recalled the valley before the eruption that this had been a huge forest. The heat from the hot lava lake somewhere down there in the bottom of the valley had fired this and burned it to cinders. Only an occasional rampike, charred and gaunt and weird looking in the blowing steam, told of the forest that grew there before. The hairy boy looked at these mute monuments to the wrath of the Fire Demon with a mingled feeling of awe and wonder. To see these tree giants charred and blackened, their twisted limbs shorn from them and scattered half burned on the ground, revived to a certain extent the fear that he had had. He stood and stared at the charred mass a long time before going on, and then not until he had broken himself a stout knotted club from one of the fire hardened rampikes, as if to provide himself with some sort of a weapon with which to face the mysterious danger of the Fire Demon.
Yet, despite his fear and trepidation, the hairy boy was enough a master of his will power to force himself into exploring the valley further. Deeper he pushed his way through the misty, swirling steam, realizing the while that the air and the earth were growing hotter. From this he understood that he was approaching what had appeared to him from the hilltop to be a red hot lake where the lava had gathered in the valley bottom.
The steam grew thicker and hotter and ahead of him and on either hand he heard peculiar hissing noises, that agitated him a great deal, for he could not know that it was the hot lava cooling off by its contact with the cold and moist earth. He went on but he went with great stealth and caution, always peering through the steam with club raised as if expecting at any moment to come face to face with the Demon that made the fire.
Suddenly the hissing grew more intense and the air very much hotter. At the same time loomed through the steam a vast stretch of smooth, black, polished rock that took queer forms as if it were so much soft dough that had been poured over the ground and allowed to harden. All about its edges, where it came into contact with the ground, jets of steam were spurting out, each hissing and curling like huge evanescent reptiles. The hairy boy gasped and drew back. Then he stopped and stood staring, club upraised. He was alert and ready for danger, but he was frankly curious too. He could not understand why this black rock that never had been in the valley before could give out such intense heat and cause the snaky spouts of steam that hissed so ominously and lingered in the air like a swamp fog. He crouched on his haunches and stared for a long, long time while the wolf-dog cubs, crowding close to him, looked at the black rock curiously while their tongues lolled because of the intense heat.
Finally the hairy boy got to his feet. His curiosity was mastering his fear and suspicion. He began to approach the edge of the hot lava bed very cautiously. As he advanced the heat grew more intense until his hairy coat dripped perspiration and water from the condensing steam. Closer and closer he moved until he was almost within touching distance of a big black globule of the cooling lava that was detached from the main mass. Then be reached out with the stick he still carried and tapped it curiously.
A strange thing happened. Each time the stick came into contact with the hot rock a wisp of blue smoke went up as the heat scorched the wood. This was puzzling to the hairy boy. Why did this happen? He tapped and tapped again; then he examined the scorched end of the stick and felt of it. It was very hot. It burned him. He grunted and pulled his hand away. Then he sat and thought for a long time until his slow brain reasoned that the rock burned the stick, and the heat that the stick carried from the rock burned his hand. The stick carried the heat from the rock for a little while; then the heat mysteriously disappeared.
Still he sat and thought and slowly a question took shape in his mind. If the stick carried the heat for a little while just by tapping on the rock, why wouldn't it carry heat for a long while if he held the stick onto the rock a long time? Perhaps it would, then that would be a way of taking with him the good of the Fire Demon and leaving behind the bad. He wanted the heat the Fire Demon could give but he wanted to leave behind the power it had to kill and destroy.
He decided to try an experiment. He reached forth and held the stick against the rock. Slowly the blue smoke appeared. It grew and grew in quantity; then suddenly a tiny red flame began to lick at the end of the stick, for the lava had set the pitchy knot on fire.
When the hairy boy saw the flame he grunted in terror, dropped the stick and leaped backward in fear. Of course, the tiny flame went out. The boy sat and watched the stick for a long time, and his brain was so busy that his round head positively hurt. What were these sinister red and orange things that had licked at the end of the stick? Were they the fingers of the Fire Monster? If they were, why had they not held the stick and consumed it?
He picked up the stick and tried the experiment again. Once more the flames appeared, but went out when the stick was dropped. Again he tried, but this time he held the stick longer. While he held it he found that the flames waxed stronger and grew bigger. He studied them curiously, holding the stick at arm's length, and, while he watched, he wondered whether, after all, these flames were not the beneficial thing that the Fire Monster had to give him. They were hot. He could carry them by carrying the stick away. Yet he could kill them by merely dropping the stick or tapping it on the ground. He tried it again and again, and each time he lit the stick and put it out he sensed a feeling of elation within him. He felt as if he were doing a masterly thing. He could awaken or conquer the Fire Monster at will. It was wonderful; almost a triumph. The hairy boy felt as proud as he had the day he had leaped out from behind a rock and slain his first wild goat with a stone hammer that he had borrowed from his father's cave.
He was so elated by the knowledge that he was master of the fire that he began to dance up and down in a peculiarly weird sort of a way and drum on his chest with his fists, chanting the while, "Og, og, og, og, og," which to him meant "I am a great man now; no longer a boy. I am the conqueror; Og, the conqueror." And thus it was that he gave himself a name, after the manner of the hairy folk. Og he was to be thenceforth, for he felt that he had won this name, for among the hairy men only the people who had achieved something notable were entitled to a name.
AFTER that for almost an hour he amused himself by lighting and putting out the stick and slowly a sense of self-confidence grew within him, and he no longer had the awe and fear of the Fire Demon. Indeed he held the burning end of the stick quite close to him, watched the flames curiously, felt their heat, broke off slivers from the other end of the club, lit them and knocked them out. Once he breathed hard upon one of these splinters and it went out. Here was a discovery, indeed. With his very breath he could kill the Fire Demon. He blew hard upon the flames that curled about the pitchy knots of his club to prove it and they went out too. After that he lost all fear of the Fire Monster. Anything so weak that he could conquer it with his breath was not at all to be feared.
He held the stick to the lava to light it again, his mind intent on what he was doing; indeed he had been so fascinated with his experiments that he had forgotten everything, even the wolf-dog cubs. He had not noticed how the hair on the back of their necks bristled or how they cowered with tails between their legs while they looked furtively into the swirling steam behind them. In truth, the first that he realized that anything was amiss was when both cubs with a frightened snarl tried to crowd between his legs for protection. At the same moment a snort sounded behind him, followed by a strident trumpeting.
Og, flaming stick in hand, jumped up with a start to behold but vaguely through the steam a massive hairy and tusked head with upraised trunk and sinister little eyes, looming above him. Og knew only too well what it was and his heart all but stopped when he saw the evil thing. His people called it The Mountain That Walked, the great shaggy haired mammoth. They were so big and so strong and so fearless that even Sabre Tooth, the great cave tiger, slunk from them.
They were so big and so strong and so fearless that even Sabre Tooth, the tiger, slunk from them.
For one horror-fraught second the hairy boy stared at the terrible, massive head and trunk that waved slowly back and forth above him. He knew the great beast had marked him as an enemy. He knew that the curled trunk would strike swiftly and surely, that the great coils would close about him and that with one powerful toss he would be hurled skyward to fall and be trampled under the heavy feet of the ponderous beast. It was a terrible death to face and Og shrank back and shuddered as he watched the great trunk. He was so frightened he was no longer master of himself. It was as if the wicked little eyes had hypnotized him and held him spellbound. Slowly, with a weaving motion, a sinister swaying from side to side, the great trunk bent toward him, ready to strike.
Suddenly the boy thought of the stick; the fire brand that he held in his hand. It gave him courage. With a wild yell he leaped and whirled the burning club above his head aiming a blow at the big beast. The flaming end swept within a foot of the great animal's face and with a snort it drew back. In that instant the hairy boy, still clinging to the lighted stick, bolted off through the fog of steam, the wolf cubs at his heels.
As swift as the wind he ran, and the giant mammoth, now thoroughly aroused, vented a thunderous trumpet and raced after him with an awkward shambling gait. Although he was clumsy and ponderous the mammoth covered the ground as swiftly as Og did, his long trunk reaching out before him ready to seize his victim the instant he came within reach.
Had it been a long race Og most certainly would have been captured. He knew this too and he fled with swiftness borne of utter panic for he could hear the heavy thuds of ponderous feet close behind him, and the whistling, snorting of its breath seemed almost at his back. But fortunately as he raced on through the steam fog there suddenly appeared before him a great crevice rent in the hillside by the earthquake that had attended the volcanic eruption. It was like a deep but narrow wound in the hill, and Og knew that if he climbed into this the great mammoth could not follow. True, his snakelike trunk could reach inside but Og felt that if he could crawl beyond its length the animal could not force his body into the narrow opening.
He fled with swiftness born of utter panic, for he could hear the heavy thud of ponderous feet close behind him.
With safety in sight Og leaped forward with renewed speed and literally hurled himself into the crevice, the wolf-dog cubs falling over each other to scramble in behind him. In a panic all three struggled, stumbled and crawled over rocks and earth clods and forced themselves back into the deepest, narrowest confines of this crack in the earth. There in the darkness that was lighted only by the tiny flames of the still burning torch that Og had clung to, they waited.
Presently The Mountain That Walked, with thunderous tread and whistling breath, reached the crevice. For a moment the great beast stopped and peered inside. Then scenting his enemy within he reached his snaky trunk into the earthy cave, and groped about.
The hairy boy and the wolf cubs shrank back trembling. To have this horrible thing within a few feet of their faces, was a terrible experience and for a time it shattered the courage of the trio. But when it became apparent that the animal could not reach them Og grew braver, so brave in fact that presently he fell to shouting terrible insults at the beast and brandishing his fiery stick. Indeed he mustered the courage to crawl close enough to the twisting trunk to jam the fire stick into its folds.
With a roar the trunk was withdrawn immediately and the hairy boy, laughing with glee, turned toward the cowering wolf cubs as if seeking their approval for his brave deed.
But the smile on his face was transformed into an expression of horror, for as he looked toward the end of the crevice he saw to his consternation that the walls on either side were slowly drawing closer together. Clods of earth and heavy stones were falling, jarred loose by the slow but irresistible movement of the walls. The earth that had been pushed upward by volcanic action was slowly settling again. The crevice was closing and they would be buried alive.