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Og — Son of Fire
Irving Crump
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1922

CHAPTER XVIII

GOG'S TREACHERY

 
GOG was a strong man. He was a fighter, fierce and brave and able, otherwise he could not have been the leader of the clan. But he was a thinker, too; at least his brain was developed in proportion to his strong body, and he could reason more clearly than the average man of the caves. And he was terribly jealous of Og because of his wisdom and the popularity he had won among the hairy folk because of his gift of fire.

Gog saw that the people of the tribe looked more to Og for guidance than they did to him now. This was a terrible blow to the old leader's pride. Day after day he sat in the doorway of his cave and muttered and mumbled to himself, and sometimes he crunched his short, strong yellow teeth, so angry did he get at the thoughts of this young hairy one, hardly more than a boy, who was undermining his position as leader of the tribe.

With a single blow of his stone hammer Gog could have settled all this. Time and again he was moved to do the deed that would put an end to this boy of the Fire. But each time he changed his mind. For one thing he feared Og's weapon, the fire torch. For another he realized that the boy's popularity was steadily growing; that he had a great many friends who would fight for him now, and while he felt equal to any one — yes, any two or three — of the clan's best fighters, he did not have the courage to face an uprising of all of Og's friends, which he feared might be the situation if he should kill or injure the hairy boy.

Gog thought and thought of how he might revenge himself on Og. And as he thought, treachery began to take root. He remembered Wab, Og's father. In other days Wab had also been a thorn in Gog's foot, so to speak. He had been a brave man and a mighty hunter; a better hunter than Gog had ever been. He had been a brave fighter, too, as Gog remembered, but in this Gog was better. Yet in council meetings Wab had sometimes ridiculed him. And in boasting Wab had often made Gog's stories of prowess small and trifling. Wab had laughed at him more than once. Several times they had come to blows and fought for hours until both were exhausted, and, although Gog had always had a little the better of each encounter, Wab's defeat was never without glory among certain members of the tribe. Gog and Wab had always been rivals for honors among the hairy men.

But all that had passed with Wab's encounter with the cave tiger. The old hunter had been made helpless and as such almost an outcast, for one who was helpless among the hairy people could expect little in the way of assistance from others. Life was too hard even for the best of them, and they had all that they could do to look after themselves and little to share with others. And so Wab had been removed as an obstacle in the path of Gog's leadership and the savage old warrior had gone on being the head man of the clan until Og came.

Now Og was caring for Wab. Through Wab, Gog could hurt Og; of this the fighter felt certain. His brain took many daylights and many darknesses to conceive the plan, and more than once his head hurt so from thinking that he was almost moved to give up the idea entirely.

But gradually he worked out a treacherous scheme. First he must make peace with Og. Be friendly to him. This would not be entirely distasteful for the present at least, for Gog was more eager than any of the other hairy men to possess a fire of his own, and he regretted exceedingly that he had not smothered his pride to the extent of building a pile of sticks in front of his cave when Og had given all the other hairy folk flames.

That was the plan. He would go to Og and pretend he was sorry he had been so stiff in the back as to refuse his fire. He would ask for a firebrand. He would visit Og's cave again and again. He would even talk to Wab. He would talk of old times. Of hunting and roaming in the forest. He knew that Wab must long for such sport once more. He would make friends with Wab, and one day when Og was not around he would take Wab off into the forest on his last hunt. Wab would never come back. Og perhaps would go to find him. And while Og was gone something might happen. Who could tell? Perhaps Og would never come back either.

Crafty old Gog was so full of pride after he had worked out such an elaborate scheme that he felt Og to be nothing but a boy when it came to pitting his wits against such brains as he possessed. He grinned silently as he thought how really clever he was to think all these things out, even though it had taken him weeks and many headaches.

So Gog put his plan into action, and one day, with a freshly killed goat over his shoulder, he appeared in the doorway of Og's cave. But Og was not there. Wab was sitting by the fire. The old hunter could see Gog only faintly, but his keen old nose could scent the fresh goat blood.

"Who are you? The step sounded like Gog. Is it you, Gog, come to make life miserable for a helpless man?" asked Wab.

"It is I, Gog," said the treacherous one, "but I come as a friend and bring goat as a present. I seek Og. From him I would get fire. My back was stiff. I would not take the flames when he offered them. But I am wise now. I see my mistake. I come seeking it."

"Your back was always stiff, Gog," said Wab, still with a spark of the old fire.

"Yes. But that was wrong. I am wiser now, and more friendly. I guess I am getting old and tired. I wish that I had nothing to do but sit in the warmth as you do and be fed by my sons. The hunt is hard on a man growing gray in the face."

"The hunt! Oh, Gog, you speak as a man who knows little of the misery of sitting and remembering; only remembering, never doing. The hunt! Oh, Gog, I would give much to feel a stone hammer once more in my hands, to stalk slyly through the long grass and creep upon some foolish goat. That is life. Remembering only is next to death. Come sit a while and tell me of the hunt."

And so Gog sat beside Wab and talked, and Wab was pleased; so pleased that when Og came back to the home cave the warrior and the hunter were as old friends and Og looked at them and wondered. Gog asked for the fire, and, because of Wab, Og gave it to him; and the savage old leader went back to his cave with a strange smile on his ugly, scarred face, for he knew that he had laid the plans for his treachery wisely.

He went again and again to Og's cave and always he talked of the hunt with the old man. He told him about the goats in the long grass in the meadow down the valley, and he told him of the wild horses that were passing in droves over the plains beyond the mountain ranges. He talked of old hunting trips when Og was but a baby and Wab was the mightiest hunter of them all, and this thrilled and pleased the old man and made Og happy, too, for he found a strong interest in listening to the tales. He preferred to listen rather than to talk, for in listening he learned many things that were new and useful but when he talked he gathered no knowledge.

In this way Gog soon found himself on really friendly terms with the boy and the man, and after a time neither of them suspected him of treachery and he was welcome in the big cave in the base of the cliff, by Og and Wab at least. But the other occupants of the cave, the wolf-dogs, never reached that point. Indeed, they mistrusted Gog from the first, and they always growled and showed their teeth when they heard his footsteps.

This caused Og to wonder a great deal, for he placed great confidence in the instinct of these animals. Yet time went on and Gog grew more and more friendly and came more often until Og was thoroughly disarmed.

And then one day Gog came to the home cave of Og and Wab when the hairy boy was away on a meat quest. It was planned that way, for Gog had been watching the boy for several days and waiting for just this opportunity. With his biggest stone hammer clutched in his powerful hand he stood in the doorway of Og's cave and spoke to Wab.

"Oh, lucky one! You can sit by the fire and dream while others hunt for you. Gog in his old age has still to go hunting his own food and food for his children. My sons, thankless wretches, have caves of their own to provide for, and I have only babies home now who cannot do anything but squall and eat."

"No, Gog, you are the lucky one. You can still hunt your own meat. Wab wishes that he could do likewise, but he is doomed to sit here by the fire and get fat, and lazy. This is harder than hunting."

"Why not go, then? You can still see the daylight, and with a strong companion you might still stalk the goat."

"I have thought so, too. I might still feel the thrill of the hunt. But Og says no. He tells me to rest and be content to dream and grow fat. He will not take me. If he only knew how hard it is for me to do nothing, perhaps he would take me with him sometimes."

"Oh, Og is too cautious! Come; go with me. I will not go far. I am still strong and my eyes are keen. I will see for you. No harm will come to you."

A strange, wistful expression flashed across Wab's face for a moment. Then he became greatly excited.

"Would you take me, Gog, and bring me back safely?" he exclaimed, getting to his feet.

"And why not? Are we not friends now, Wab?" said the treacherous Gog.

"Oh, if I could go but once! It would make me happy again. It would give me fresh thoughts to dream about. Surely it would do me no harm," He said wistfully, thinking of Og.

"Harm! No harm shall come to you while Gog is with you," said the old leader boastfully, yet smiling slyly as he thought of the plans he had laid.

"Good! Then I will go," said Wab; "but look first for me and see that Og is not near. He will not want me to go if he sees me."

But Gog had already made certain of this and he assured Wab that his son was nowhere near. Wab, atremble with excitement, took one of Og's well-shaped stone hammers and a flint knife that his son had made for him, and thus armed he came out of the cave to Gog's side.

Almost stealthily they stole away from the caves and into the forest, for Gog did not want many of the cave dwellers to see him taking Wab into the forest where the partly blind hunter could so easily be lost.

With Gog leading and Wab following behind, keeping close to the treacherous old chief by watching him as best he could with his dimmed eye and listening with alert ears to his footsteps, the two hairy men progressed with remarkable swiftness through the thick and dark forest. Occasionally Gog grunted directions or fragments of conversation.

"On the plains of the valley, toward the warm lands, I am told are herds of horses. It is many days since I have tasted horse flesh. With the once great hunter, Wab, beside me, it would be pleasant to hunt the horse."

Wab could not help feeling a sense of pride at being referred to again as the great hunter, yet sober judgment made him reply with caution.

"Do not be misled, Gog. Wab is no longer the great hunter he was when he had two eyes. And remember, the horse is swift of foot and keen of vision. Two good men can scarcely expect to be successful in hunting them, so I fear we will stand small chance."

Gog grunted in disgust.

Times have changed since you hunted last, Wab. We are craftier than the horse and keener witted. I am a thinker. Trust me to find a way to bring one down when the time comes. I can do it. Come; we will go over the mountains to the broad plains.

We will be back by nightfall, each with all the dripping horse flesh we can carry." And Wab, partly because he had to follow Gog and partly because a horse hunt appealed to him, still followed.

Soon they began to climb the slope of the mountains to the southward. Up they mounted, Gog picking pathways through the forest that clothed the heights. The traveling was hard for Wab, because he had grown fat and soft of flesh since he had been spending most of his time sitting in the warmth of the camp fire.

For a long time they toiled upward and very little in the way of conversation passed between them save occasional grunts, for each needed to spare their lungs of extra strain. But soon they mounted the rolling summit where they could look outward across the wide pleasant valley and the plain beneath; at least Grog observed the scene and imparted what he saw to his partly blind companion.

But midway in his description of all that he beheld, he paused and grunted.

"What is it?" demanded Wab, sensing that his companion had seen something that he had not located before.

"It is strange forms moving on the edge of the forest down the mountain here below us. They are not horses. They climb in the trees. Ah, I know now. The tree people. Ho! ho! the tree people. Wab, we are in luck. Here is sport, indeed. We will make war on these great cowards," exclaianed Gog viciously, his fighting instinct dominating every other emotion or desire.

"Make war on them? Why?" asked Wab. "We do not want their forest. We do not care to drive them out of here as we did out of the valley of the volcano so long ago. Why make war? We are hunters now."

"Ho! ho! Why make war? Just for the love of it, perhaps. Just, to hear them squeal and to see them run. They are great cowards, afraid of hairy men. We two can put the whole tribe to flight. Come; it will be great sport. Think of the skulls we can smash! Think of the blood we can spill," and the savage old fighter grinned wickedly and, grasping his stone hammer menacingly, he started down the mountain.

And Wab followed, but not without a strange presentiment that all was not well. He knew that he would make a poor adversary in any conflict.


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