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Og — Boy of Battle
Irving Crump
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1925

CHAPTER VI

OG'S SNAKE-KNIFE

 
OG FROM the temporary safety of a few limbs above watched the terrible situation develop with an expression of horror on his face. But Og had enough intelligence to appreciate the irony of the situation. They had come to kill the great snake; to hunt it down and exterminate it and rid their little cliff world of the terror of its raids. And here they were cornered by it. The hunters were the hunted, and one of them if not both were in grave danger of being killed and eaten by it. It aroused in him anger and resentment that grew so strong as to dominate his fear. He was on the point of swinging down upon it; of crashing and clashing at the scaly folds of its great body that were draped all through the tree beneath him. But somehow he knew that that would be futile; that the flesh was too thick and heavy for him to wound it mortally in the body. He knew that it's only vulnerable point was its head. Oh, for a longer handled stone hammer; for a longer knife, for—. The glimmering of an idea flickered in Og's brain. Quickly he thrust his hand into the pouch of tiger skin he carried on his back between his shoulders and from it drew the hollow goat's horn, that Kow had given him as a farewell present. The point of it had been sharpened and polished until it was like the point of a flint knife. Og held it in his hand a moment and studied it with wrinkled brow. Then looking about him until he saw a long, strong branch of the thickness he wanted with a mighty wrench of his powerful hands and strong arms he broke it off, and shoved the end of it into the hollowed end of the horn. And in that exigency Og had conceived and made the first spear, for the long branch quickly stripped of its twigs made a creditable shaft and the goat's horn on the end made of the combination a formidable weapon.

Somehow his ingenuity gave Og tremendous courage, and with the spear balanced in his hand he gave a ringing shout — his war cry, and swinging downward until he was just a branch above the snake's head, he lunged at it viciously with the spear. His shout and the sudden movement above took the snake's attention from Ru just at the critical moment. When the serpent looked up in time to receive a vicious jab in the head by the sharp goat's horn its surprise and consternation was evident to Og, who shouted again and jabbed once more with his new-found weapon whose shaft was so long that he could keep well out of danger and deliver telling blows.

So sudden and unexpected was the attack from above that the snake was taken off its guard. But only for a moment. Og above the ugly, swaying, flat head could see the green eyes turn almost red with the rage that swept over the monster. Like lightning the serpent struck upward at him hissing wickedly, and Og in consternation almost tumbled from the branch to which he clung. But the snake could not reach him; the long-handled spear kept him well out of danger and Og, when he had regained his composure, struck back with more vigor and better results than at first, for he jabbed the sharp, horned point dangerously close to one of the snake's eyes. The serpent struck at the spear then, once, twice, thrice in rapid succession, but Og only laughed in derision and jabbed back viciously. The great snake was beside itself with anger and the pain of the slashing wounds that the sharp spear made about its head. It began to writhe and lash about in the tree and reaching upward as high as it could it struck more viciously. And so great was the commotion that it made that poor Ru clinging to the end of the swaying branch with hands and feet was tossed about like a bird in a wind storm. So close was he to the enraged reptile that although he knew that Og, above him, was carrying on the battle valiantly, he did not know when the enraged reptile might strike at him instead of Og. And needing both hands and his feet as well to cling onto the thrashing branch he could not wield his stone hammer to protect himself.

Suddenly the serpent with a mighty effort strove to throw part of its ponderous body upward and across the limb on which Og crouched to get within striking distance of him. The force it exerted was so great that the limb over which it was draped and to which Ru clung was whipped downward so violently that Ru was snapped from the end like a nut from a burr and with arms and legs reaching and grasping, and with a cry of fright on his lips he went whirling through the air to the ground. But the branches that he crashed through on his way down served to break the violence of his fall, and almost the moment he reached the ground he bounded to his feet again and with a cry of relief darted for the nearest tree on the edge of the forest.

Og saw him scuttling to safety with satisfaction, and he saw too that the snake, thwarted in its efforts to throw its body over the limb to which he clung, was fast losing heart in the battle. This gave him redoubled confidence in himself and his new weapon, and with shrill cries of victory he reached downward and slashed and jabbed without mercy at the great serpent, until the snake's anger turned to fear and its courage to cowardice, and with more haste than it had climbed it began to drop its great folds out of the tree, sliding swiftly, head first downward from branch to branch. And Og in the ecstasies of his victory, jabbed at each undulating fold of the big body as it slipped past him accelerating the retreat of the serpent until with a swish and a jarring thud it whipped the remainder of its body out of the tree to the ground and slid swiftly into the undergrowth.

Then giving voice to ringing shouts of triumph Og swung out of the tree to the ground and called lustily to Ru to come out of the forest and join him. Og was so elated and so pleased with himself and his achievements that he could not refrain from boasting.

"He has gone. He has run away. He is afraid of Og with his stabbing snake-knife. Behold this is Co-ro-ka, the snake-knife." Thus did Og in his picture language name the spear, Co-ro-ka, which meant to him and to Ru, a knife-with-a-long-body-and-head-that-strikes-death.

Og and Ru crouched under the tree and examined closely the new weapon Og had made. And Ru envied Og and wanted one. But Ru had no goat's horn with a hollow end. Both he and Og thought and thought a long time. Og wondered why a flint knife could not be fastened to a long shaft and serve the same purpose. With their stone hammers they found and broke off several long straight saplings, and Og with his elementary aptitude for handicraft, worked and puzzled over a method of fastening his flint knife to one end of it. And gradually he worked out a way, by splitting the shaft, and binding the flint into place with strips of the tough hide of the hairy mammoth. And when he had finished his weapon he saw that it was even better than the one made with the goat's horn for its point was harder and keener and would stay fastened to the shaft, where the hollow goat's horn slipped off when the spear was used with too much force or the shaft was pulled away from instead of pushed against the head.

Elated with his handiwork, Og made a second weapon for Ru, and when it was finished both boys began a strange little dance of triumph under the tree, beating their hairy chests with one clenched fist while they brandished their spears above their heads with the other hand and made fierce battle noises. Then when they were tired of this and were panting with their exertions but were still in high spirits, they crouched down under the tree and began to make plans.

Their new weapons and their first victory over the great snake had made them so confident of their powers and so courageous that Og counseled their immediate pursuit of the monstrous serpent. He was certain now that they could kill the reptile and since that was the purpose of their venture into the great swamp he urged that they start immediately and follow the trail of the reptile while it was still fresh. But although Ru was as fully imbued with the courage that their achievements gave them, he had not yet forgotten the horror of those few moments on the end of the branch when the great snake was hanging over him ready to strike and throw its deadly folds about him, and Og saw that his companion hesitated at tracking the snake down. Og talked and argued and gesticulated and used every means of persuasion he could command. And while he talked he gathered together twigs and sticks and made a fire and spitted some of the tough meat of the mammoth and soon had it sizzling over the flames.

Then while they ate they talked some more until finally when both were well fed and feeling very high in spirits, Ru more willingly accepted Og's plan. Presently with their long spears over their shoulders and their stone hammers in belts about their waists, Og, with his tiger skin pouch on his back took up the trail of the great snake and Ru followed after.


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