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Og — Boy of Battle
Irving Crump
Dodd, Mead & Co.



OG WAS sick with terror and unhappiness as he looked on. Fear for his own safety made him tremble and want to shrink close to the tree trunk. But above this fear arose a desire to protect, to help, to rescue Ru from the certain death that threatened him. On the instant he became furiously, recklessly angry at the mammoth, and suddenly, unthinkingly, and just at the instant that Ru with a wild cry of fear let go his hold on the limb, Og like a thunderbolt leaped from the limb on which he was crouching and landed between the big waving ears squarely on the massive head of the mammoth. And while he clung to the coarse, shaggy hair with both his feet and one free hand he began with all the strength of his powerful arm and shoulder to crash blow upon blow with his heavy stone hammer down upon the flat forehead of the great animal seeking in his fury to blind the beast. With a snort of rage and pain the mammoth let lose his grip on Ru's leg, flinging him aside as if he were but a broken tree branch. Then shaking his massive head and lashing about with his sinister coiling trunk he sought to dislodge Og; to seize him, tear him down and trample him underfoot. His anger was terrible to behold.

But by good fortune Og had landed in the one place where the mammoth's trunk could not reach him without great difficulty. Time and again the horrible, snaky thing lashed upward between his massive curving tusks trying to sweep him off or seize him and pull him down, and although its ugly coiling length with its single gripping, lip-like finger swept so close to him that the animal's hot, fetid breath blew full in his face. Yet Og was able to dodge the menacing thing or slash at it with his stone hammer.

And as Og realized that he had the great beast at a disadvantage his anger gave way to exultancy; triumph that he was able to give battle to the huge animal, and he struck harder, raining down crashing, bone-shattering blows on the mammoth's forehead and eyes.

With one eye crushed and beaten out by the heavy stone hammer and the other injured and useless, the mammoth, blind and a veritable demon with pain and rage, bellowed and trumpeted until it seemed as if the very trees shook. He tossed his massive head about and lashed at branches overhead. He reared on his hind legs and shook his heavy body madly. With his thrashing trunk he snapped off good-sized trees and tore up the thickly massed jungle foliage and underbrush while his great curving tusks ploughed deep furrows in the ground and tossed great clods of earth and undergrowth high above his head.

But through it all Og clung on; clung on and crashed down blow upon blow on the great, bloody, ragged wound that he had hacked in the mammoth's forehead. And with each blow he gave voice to a ringing shout of triumph for he knew now that he had the great beast beaten and that if he could cling on long enough he would bring the animal down. Never in the history of the Hairy People had a single man ever killed the Mountain-That-Walked, and Og wanted to be able to boast of such an achievement.

Suddenly the mammoth, its spirit broken and its great rage changing to weak, helpless, fear, gave voice to a loud squealing sound instead of its deep tones trumpeting, and ceasing to thrash about in its anger, it bolted headlong and in panic straight into the thickest growth of the swamp as if it hoped now to run away from the torture that kept pecking at its forehead.

And Og growing careless in his triumph stood up on the beast's head, using both hands to wield his stone hammer. But he had scarcely delivered one blow this way when a sudden and most unexpected thing happened. The mammoth plunged under a huge swamp oak tree, and one of the lowermost branches caught Og across his chest and swept him kicking and clutching to the ground. And the mammoth still squealing ploughed on through the thicket.

Og was partly stunned with the fall and by the time he managed to get onto his feet Ru, who had taken refuge in a tree during the battle had climbed down beside him. Off in the darkness, and not far away they could hear the mammoth still squealing. They could hear him lashing and crashing in the undergrowth too and with it all they could hear a great splashing, wallowing sound.

Og listened for a moment in silence, then with a yell of triumph, and a call to Ru to follow he dashed off through the night down the wide trail that the fleeing animal had left through the jungle.

Soon the splashing and squealing grew louder, and suddenly Og and Ru came to the end of the swamp island where a deep slough of mud and water began and reached off into the night. And on the brink of this they could see where the blind mammoth had plunged headlong in and had gone wallowing on and on. He was out there still not so very far from the bank but far enough to be hidden from view in the darkness. But they knew he was there mired and helpless, for they could hear his squeals of terror and his blind thrashing about and splashing, and the sucking gurgle of the mud and ooze into which his great body was slowly sinking. They stood there on the brink of the slough listening to the great beast's struggle until Og, growing wary once more, called to Ru to climb the nearest tree. There, clinging to the branches, they crouched waiting and listening to the slowly weakening struggles of the mammoth until the blue-gray half light of dawn began to filter through the gloom of the swamp and revealed the huge animal dead and half sunken from sight in the mud.

Og gave cry after cry of triumph; voiced the hunting cry of the Hairy People when he saw his great enemy conquered. Then he and Ru climbed down from the tree, and with the aid of some dead branches to give them firmer footing, made their way across the quagmire until they could climb upon the bulging hairy sides of the dead mammoth. There with their sharp pieces of flint they began to hack at the tough hairy hide and flesh of the great animal for meat meant meat to them and they intended to feast upon their conquest. Also they wanted a trophy to carry back to the cliff village of the Hairy People, and so with their stone hammers each of them broke off a worn and yellow end of the great animal's tusks that still curved upward out of the mud into which the huge body was slowly sinking, there to lie buried for centuries to come.

But while they were crawling over the huge carcass, hacking at the tough hide with their flint knives, Og suddenly stopped with a grunt of surprise and fear and stood erect, testing the air with his sensitive nostrils. Down the wind across the great swamp came strong and terrible and dreadful the odor of the great snake, and from out among the densest of the long reeds came a strange fearsome scraping sound as of a huge body being dragged across the ground.

With a startled cry Og bolted for the nearest tree, and Ru, chattering with fear, followed him.

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