Out of the Miocene
(In Two Parts - Part One)
By John Charles Beecham
The letters which we received while George Sterling's stories of primitive man were appearing in the POPULAR assured us that you were interested in these graphic pictures of what happened before Man, as we know him now, appeared on this planet. Here is a great novel along the same lines: a story that illustrates what Bergson calls "the forward push of evolution" from the terror-filled ape to the feeling of law and beauty, and the face upturned from the sod. Only here you have not only the first glimmerings of manhood appearing In the ape's brain, but you have the mind of a modern man traveling backward through the axons and living again in his progenitor of the Miocene age. A fascinating story, built on scientific discovery and written by a man who has the gift of narrative.
WAS it a dream, that vision of the old Kansas Sea that boiled and roared in awful grandeur over our Mississippi Basin so many thousands of centuries ago, the great sagillaria forests and the beasts they hid, the zeuglodon and mosasaur in terrific battle, and all the horrors of the time when the world was still in its babyhood? Or was Professor Haupt right when he told our philosophy class that each man's consciousness is only an infinitesimal part of the great General Consciousness that existed before the world began; and that all our instincts are faint adumbrations of the soul's experiences in previous existences?
Sometimes when I am alone in bed on a still, dark night those terrors again come creeping upon me, and my hair is rigid, and every nerve is taut as I hear the stentorious breathing of the great cave bear as he smelled out my footprints. And while reason laughs at dread, my hands steal out from the blankets for a leap into the trees to safety as I did in my apeman days.
With all due modesty, I can confess to some small reputation as a scientist. Some great universities have recognized as authorities Bruce Dayton's works on the Jurassic reptilia. Yet, scientist and agnostic, I sometimes wonder if the curtain of the past was not drawn ever so slightly that I might glimpse within its folds and see some of those stupendous workings of nature at which we can only make mere guesses from the fragments of bones that have come down to us.
It is now nearly a score of years since it happened. I was working for the United States Geodetic Survey, one of a party of six mapping a desert tableland in the great Southwest. Every Western man knows the country a wall of snow-crowned hills without a pass or break, behind these mesa stretching to an alkali plain so hot and dry that even the rattlesnakes can not live there.
In every mountain town you will find men who admit confidentially that they know every trail and water hole in the Southwest. Few ever traveled this desert. It is off the beaten trails. Crossing it you go from nowhere to nowhere. There is no mineral wealth to entice the prospector. There is hardly enough grass in the whole two hundred miles to supply a single sheep with herbage. Nothing but mile after mile of blistering alkali, powdered to a fine dust that rises to choke you in every breeze. The Indians shunned it like smallpox. Even the bad men in the old days of the Colt and the rope waited for the sheriff when they were hemmed in rather than make a try across it.
Ours was the first survey, and the sixth day's work found us in the heart of the tract. The water supply was low, and they sent me for more. I think the intolerable heat of the last six days must have affected me, for this is the only way I can explain my supreme foolishness. Ten miles after I left camp, following our well-staked trail, I saw a mirage. Having just made the trail, I should have instantly recognized it. But the one thought that filled my brain was that here, a mile away, were trees and water, cutting my trip short. I left the trail.
After an hour's wandering I came to my senses. I tried to pick up the stakes again. Another hour, and I knew I was lost. By night my canteen was empty, and I had a raging thirst. I dared not stop. There was a beautiful moon, and I plunged on through the unmarked waste.
It was about four hours after sunset when I stumbled on one of those mysterious grooves in the face of the desert travelers sometimes find. It sloped down sharply to a natural gorge that rapidly widened and deepened, promising water.
A half mile, and the rock walls towered on either side two hundred feet or more. There was grass in this valley; there were trees sure signs of a spring. My horse shied suddenly, and as I pulled the bit I saw a deer only a rod away, its big eyes blinking in mild surprise at the intrusion. It did not move an inch until I could almost touch it, when it gently trotted ahead of us.
Deer in the alkali plains? Tame as in Central Park? What had I stumbled into fairyland? While I doubted, I heard the baying of a hound, and saw the dim outline of an adobe hut along the margin of a pond. The next moment a square in the black wall flamed red, and I knew some one had lit a lamp.
A bandit rendezvous was my instant suspicion. I jumped off my horse and crouched, rifle in hand, behind a tree.
A door was flung open and a figure stood silhouetted at the entrance. It was an old than, seventy years of age at least. I could not see his features nor mark details, for the light was behind him and blinded me, but the long beard that swept below his waistline, the stooping shoulders, and the break in his voice as he challenged: "Who's there?" revealed his years.
"A friend," I answered, "lost in the desert," and stepped forward.
"Come in, friend," he replied. Exhausted, I sank into a chair. He gave me water and fed me, studying me the while. I marked him as closely. His clothing was of a cut the fashion ten years before. Neither his beard nor his hair had seen shears or razor for years. Although age bent his shoulders, he was only a little short of six feet tall, and proportionately built. What a big man he must have been in his prime! Even now there was an aura of tremendous strength about him, expressed in every motion. Everything I could see confirmed my first impression that here was a hermit. I started to tell my story.
"Eat first!" he commanded. There was such finality in his tone that I obeyed without question.
When I had finished he took a chair directly in front of me.
"How did you become lost?" he asked.
"I might begin by introducing myself," I replied.
"As you wish. This is the West; it is not necessary."
I told him what our party was doing, and rather sheepishly confessed how I had left the trail. His glance was fixed on me in a steady stare. As I progressed with my story, his eyes made me uncomfortable. They never blinked, but bored in as if to read my inmost thoughts.
"H'm, h'm!" he grunted, combing his long beard with his fingers, "a very possible story."
"You don't mean to question " I blazed.
The commanding light that sprang into his eyes froze me silent before he broke in.
"Young man," he thundered, "you are the first stranger to cross these portals in twenty years. You will have to abide by my peculiarities of speech while here."
"If you could give me a night's lodging, and show me the trail to-morrow morning " I began.
"Tut, tut! We will cross that bridge on the morrow. Pardon me a moment while I prepare your chamber."
I marveled at his nicety of speech. As he left me, I looked about the cabin. The walls, the floors in the comers, even the rafters above me, were covered with bones. Bones and huge tusks, some of them arranged in heaps, some of them partly fitted together, bones of animals, bones of human beings. In one corner was a partially constructed skeleton, apparently of a man. The sightless sockets seemed to mock me, as if telling me that soon my bones. too, would find their place here. I began to feel uncanny. Was this a murderer's den? What Procrustean bed was he fitting for me? I meditated a dash outside for my horse. The host had my rifle.
Then I saw, in one corner, a huge thigh bone, at least four feet long. Near it was the skull of same large animal. I looked at the supposedly human skeleton again. The conformation of the jaw showed it was an ape's. I waited.
"You are a paleontologist, professor?" I asked, as he returned.
He glanced at me sharply.
"I presumed so from your collection." I explained, waving my hand about the room.
"Hum!" be grunted.
"By the bye, professor," I remarked in the awkward pause, "I have not asked your name."
"It is immaterial," he replied shortly.
"Your work is Smithsonian," I persisted, "or university research?"
"A personal hobby."
As a boy, paleontology had fascinated me, and life in a university town had given me opportunities to follow my bent. I went to the corner and examined the thigh bone. I lifted it and tapped it, to find it hollow. Beside it was a skull. I noticed the teeth particularly sickle-shaped, with sharp cutting edges. Turning to face my host, I found him half risen from his chair, gripping its arms, and intently watching me.
"A carnivorous dinosaur," I remarked casually. "Do you make it megalosour ?"
"You are a paleontologist?'" The question came like a pistol shot.
"The merest tyro. A dabbler when I was a boy."
I told him of my early life. All the while his hands worked together agitatedly, and an unearthly glow burned brightly in his eyes. Suddenly he whirled on me. Both hands gripped my knees.
"The answer to my prayer," he murmured huskily. I looked at him in astonishment.
"I am growing old," he explained. "The strength I might have used I frittered away. I am growing feeble. For a year I have prayed that I be sent one such as you. You are the answer to my prayer. You are divinely commissioned to a great work, a work that will put your name and mine among the first of the world's discoverers."
Was the man mad?
"What work?" I asked. "To find the beginnings of life."
I looked my amazement.
"Listen," he appealed. "My name is Scott, Eugene Scott. The world that knew me has forgotten, so that is all you need know. About fifty years ago, when I was as young as you are, I began the search for Darwin's Missing Link.
"After tramping Africa from the mouth of the Kongo to the Uganda country, and south to the Cape, studying every form of ape life I could find, I concluded that the Missing Link no longer exists; in fact, has not existed for ages. It is an obsolete type, and thought of its persistence to this time is fantasy. Both the apes and man are developed types, I believe, from this common ancestor. The apes have developed more particularly along certain physical lines, and man as a rational being. In the present scheme of things, there is no place for the earlier type.
"My life aim is to make some contribution to our knowledge of Evolution, the great science, the science of beginnings. Only by knowing the story of life can we ever solve the mystery of life."
His eyes again flamed with a weird light, and he rose.
"My quest is the quest of the learned of all times, and where others beat futilely against blank walls of the pit of our ignorance, I believe I may climb to the light above. To stand side by side with Newton and Aristotle and Darwin that is my hope! Where the old Greeks guessed so far and so truly, what may I do with the appliances of modern science? Only a little ways to go, perhaps. Omar surmised that. You remember what he says:
"A Hair perhaps divides the False and True;
Yes, and a single Alif were the Clew
Could you but find it, to the Treasure house,
And peradventure to the Master, too."
He spoke more rapidly. "What method should I follow? Should I adopt Haeckel's palingenetic process? But then I would make the same errors he did, probably, would find the same vitiations from the phylogenetic record he outlined, and would convince only the few. By diligent search of unexplored rock formations and marshes, should I unearth bones and rock prints, and build a history on these? Such a history must necessarily be incomplete and inconclusive. It would not reveal the secret, the mystery of life and progress.
"No, I must map out some new way, some untrodden path. How? I puzzled over the problem for months. Then one day the answer came."
He paused. Directly before me he stood, his eyes riveted upon me, as if they strove to read my inmost soul. The unearthly glow of madness was surely in them.
"I must go back through the ages to the first forms of life."
I failed to comprehend the stupendous idea he sought to convey. He must have observed my bewilderment.
"I must bring myself back to the dawn of creation, and watch the first ooze quicken, into living protoplasm. From that first life form I must progress in its descendants through aeons of time to the days of the cave man. That accomplished, the tale is complete. Our recorded history is but a few pages of the story of the world."
"You have done this?" I asked, amazed at the violence of his madness.
"No, I have failed."
The infinite regret and infinite bitterness expressed in those words told the whole story of a life ruined, and reason shattered by failure.
"Knowledge and fame were mine," he continued, "but I shrank from the risk. I was a coward. I am a broken man, allowed to live because death would be pleasanter."
His tragic utterance ended in a sob. Head bowed and between his hands he sat, staring at the fire, and I did not break the reverie.
With sudden animation he again addressed me. `
"You are a young man, a bold man, or you would not be here alone. You could take my place, and have my opportunity."
By now he was on his feet, his eyes glittering again.
"Man, you will be famous. Will you undertake a desperate adventure, more desperate than Columbus took when he first set sail for the West; an adventure with a thousand chances of death to one for life; and if you succeed, no wealth, but an imperishable memory? Dare you?"
He gripped my arms, his face near mine.
"I want you to go back, back to creation. I want you to see the northern hemisphere one great glacier, and all animal life disappearing before a polar frigidity that we cannot comprehend, the flood of Noah's day. Ah, those Hebrews, they had a revelation. Science scoffs at the childish record of those terrible times that they gave the world, but it is truth.
"I want you to see the days of the mammoth, before the ice age. I want you to see our ancestors hovering in the caves that form the bone breccias of to-day. I want you to see the pithecoid creature from which the early man sprang, clambering in the lepidodendrons and ferns of the eocene and miocene. I want you to see the little tyracotherium, the ancestor of our horse; and the mighty cave bear, lurking in grim forests of conifers that towered and clustered mountain high over still plateaus buried in eternal shade. I want you to go farther back and see the dinosaur in its native habitat. Still farther back you shall go, and see the monsters of the sea in the days when all the world was water. Not only see them, but live with them: be them. If you have the courage you shall go back to that farthest time, when all the world was mist and mud, and the earliest life forms stirred sluggishly in the primordial slime. Dare you go?"
I knew he was crazy. But I was fascinated by the ardor of his speech, the fire in his eye, the scene and the hour. Somehow his madness was in my blood. I laughed foolishly.
"There would be some rare shooting?" I inanely remarked.
Scott spat with disgust.
"Shooting?" he snarled. "Do you think you are going back in a carriage? Do you expect to drag your carcass into the uttermost depths of the ocean of time? Do you think you can bring your body through the ice of the glacial age, and mire it in the slough of a world before land and sea separated?"
"What do you propose to do?"
"You believe in a future existence, do you? Soul and body reunited after death, and all that?"
I was brought up a Calvinist. Up to then I had not thought much on religion, but I agreed, "Yes."
"All bosh! Why should the Creator go to the infinite trouble of resurrecting that particular compound of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, sodium, and other elements that is you, free it from the excreta of vermin that eat you after death, and reunite it with the spirit? Why? When the very food you eat to renew your corpuscles is made up of atoms that formed the man of yesterday, atoms taken from the soil where that man's body disintegrated?
"What renews your corpuscles; gives you life, growth? Food. What is food? Animal and vegetable matter. Whence come they? From the soil. What is soil? The dead of yesterday. Bone and gristle, flesh and blood, leaves and grasses, plant and animal cells, one conglomeration of putrefaction from which we draw our nourishment. Read Omar. He knew." -
"But the soul is immortal," I challenged. "There is heaven after death."
"Heaven? The maggots."
He sickened me. The sheer brutality of it but of course the man was mad. Such gross materialism is impossible in a rational being. I shrank away from his lean, hooked nose, the sunken cheeks, and the eyes that always burned.
"Listen," he urged, moving closer while I edged away. "There is an immortality, the immortality of the soul. But you and I, as individuals, have no immortality. After death, the soul goes back to the General Consciousness. Call it Brahma, Nirvana, God what you will. He gives and He takes. By and by He gives again, my soul to your grandchild, maybe; yours to my grandchild. So our immortality is in our children. We spin our thread, and they pick up the cord where we left off and continue it. Ever there is evolution, progression. Therefore our code of morals. To keep us clean, so the race might progress, the Creator gave us hope of the hereafter and fear. To the man of to-day these things are no longer necessary. We can bear the light, and still live to progress. Centuries ago the old Hindus, absorbed in contemplation of the ineffable, knew these things we are just beginning to learn. Metempsychosis, the old faith of the Brahmin, is truth."
He drew a deep breath. The fevers raced through my veins, leaving me hot and cold, and I grew dizzy, but still he held me fascinated.
"Now tell me why my soul and your soul, which have before them an infinite progression through forms of life still unknown to us, cannot and do not preserve some consciousness of the forms through which they have passed, and cannot, under proper conditions, be projected back into active consciousness of those forms "
Dimly I began to comprehend the mystery he propounded. But what did it entail? I was too stunned by his stupendous revelation to realize.
"Granting that you are able to bring the soul to consciousness of its other forms," I hazarded, "what is to convince me after returning to normal that what I saw and felt is not the phantasmagoria of a dream?
"The only evidence you have that anything exists, your senses. You will actually see and feel these things."
"In the body of that earlier form that your spirit once occupied."
Now I knew he was mad. He was convicted by his own argument. Who was to resurrect that body, long since returned to the original soil from which it came, and gone through countless forms since then until its component elements were scattered to the four winds of heaven?
"How are you going to resurrect that old form?"
He smiled tolerantly. "Why resurrect it? I told you that was impossible. Why not project the soul back to the particular time the body existed?"
What amazing dream was this?
"We are atoms in two oceans, time and space. Walk from here to the forest yonder, and your corporal self passes through a portion of space. Each moment you live you pass through a portion of the ocean of time. But the progression is only one way for the corporal body. With the spirit it is different. Time has no boundaries for it. Out of the infinite, into the infinite, it comes and it goes. It is one with the Eternal. Therein Moses was right.
"What I shall do is transplant your spirit into some period of the world's infancy, when from the womb of Mother Nature there sprang those forms that are now the amaze of scientists."
Once more he caught me by the arms and hurled the challenge:
"Dare you go?"
"How do you do this?" I faltered.
"That mystery I cannot reveal." The moment's drama was over. He was again the teacher.
"I learned it from an old Vedantist. I told you of my search in Africa for the Missing Link. After that failure, I drifted to India, in the faint hope that the cradle of civilization might teach me something. One day I stood on the great temple at Delhi. Below rolled the Ganges, with its thousands of worshipers bathing. I thought of the futility of it all the vain hope of humanity. Some of the bathers were little better than beasts. Why an after life for them?
"Presently I realized that some one was reading my thought. How he perceived it, I do not know. I only know that I felt that my mind was an open book to him. I turned and saw an old Hindu a little distance away, watching me. An uncontrollable impulse compelled the to address him.
"'Does the Mystery disquiet you, Seeker after Knowledge?' he asked.
"'Have you solved the Riddle of the Ages, Father?' I asked. The words were off my tongue before I knew it. I think he suggested them.
"'Follow me, he directed.
"I was with him a year. From him I learned of the spirit world, mysteries our men of science, with their empiricism, would call frauds. I found that our wisest philosophers are coarse thinkers, feeble intellects, mere children groping after the super-truths that will never be known until the new man of the golden age comes. From him I learned the secret I shall use to-night. But come, you have a fever. Let us retire?"
Scott's spell was broken. I felt very sick. The cottage swam before me. The blood pounded in my temples. I faintly recollect that I fell in Scott's arms. I remember his voice, coming from a far distance, saying:
"The fever will make it easier. The soul will more readily leave its corporal habitation."
Then I fell asleep.
At the halfway house where the distorted fancies of dreamland give way to realities, my first conscious perception was a peculiar sense of disassociation, of detachment. I was in the world, yet out of it. I was myself, yet not myself. I could not reason it out just then, I was too sleepy. It was good just to lie there with eyes shut and breathe the fresh air and luxuriate in that delicious sense of lethargy that one experiences at the close of a deep sleep, when the dormant brain cells laggardly resume their functions.
I stirred slightly, and felt myself losing my balance, falling. My hands, flung up, caught something round and firm the limb of a tree. Eyes blinking, I tried to learn what it was all about. What was I doing in a tree? Had I been sleepwalking? ... Where did I bunk last night? Oh, yes, in Scott's cottage. I must have climbed here while sleepwalking. Odd, that I should do that.
My gun! ...That was gone, too.
Perhaps it was below. I looked down and saw
Two brown legs, naked, hairy, heavy-boned, thin-calved; where mine should have been.
Who had dressed me in this monkey skin? Williams, the rodman, he was always full of tricks. ... No, Williams was miles away. Scott then. Did he have a sense of humor? ... All the same this was queer. I began to wonder whether I was myself, Bruce Dayton. But who else could I be? I pinched my leg to make sure.
Then I became aware of another self within me. For as my nails closed on the flesh, I instinctively leaped upward. I remember an instant's sickening sense that I had jumped to destruction; then an overwhelming reassurance that the distant limb would be reached. Both thoughts shot through my brain in that brief moment of the leap aloft, before I clung in affright to the branch.
That other self dominated me. For I swung, with a litheness that no athlete could equal, from limb to limb with amazing celerity. My true self reasoned that what I did was impossible to man; my other self compelled with instinctive confidence. Hidden in another cloud of that wonderful foliage, some fifty feet or more above my former perch, I stopped, ears alert, to catch the sound of pursuit.
There was not a rustle. For some minutes I waited. Then my new self did another strange thing. It compelled me to crane my head forward and foolishly yell defiance at the something that had pained me. Yet my true self told me all the time it was my own band that struck the blow.
When I opened my lips, I was astounded. What gibberish was this that poured forth; harsh gutturals coming brokenly from my lips? It was a growl, a snarl, the utterings of a beast, not of a man.
"Scott," I tried to shout.
My lips could not frame the word. To my one-self's consciousness the name stood out clearly and distinctly. To my other self it was incomprehensible. I tried to speak, but lips and tongue could produce only gutturals.
A flame of recollection flashed before my true self's consciousness. I remembered Scott's story. I remembered his last words as the fever conquered me: "The soul will more readily leave its corporal habitation."
Had he projected me back to a day before man was born from monkey? Was his amazing story true? Was it true?
With an effort I remained calm and took inventory of myself. I lifted my hands. No, those long, prehensile, hairy, black, thick-skinned claws were not mine. I twitched them and touched the tree. The fingers gave little information. That the tree was hard and firm was all I learned. What the contour of the limb was, whether the bark was rough or soft, touch did not reveal. This was not my nervous organism.
I was covered with hair. I examined it curiously. No, it was not an artificial covering of skins. It was my natural integument. I was wearing no clothing.
My face? Surely my face was my own. I felt the forehead, low and retreating, thick-skulled. That was not mine. And the nose, flat, with distended nostrils that was not mine. And the chin. prognathous, snouty, with thick, heavy lips above and great teeth. These were not mine. Who was I? What was I?
I dared not reason. For to reason, I knew, would make me mad. My overwrought mind reeled at the successive discoveries. Who was I? When was I? How was I? What waif of creation had Scott made me; who robbed me of identity; who transformed me into a brute while he left the conscience and reason of a man?
I shrieked. The weird, eerie cry my lips emitted, I cannot describe. At once came replies. From every side, far and near, were answering cries. They approached me, those other creatures to which I was corporally kin. I could hear their excited chatter. Terror of them possessed me. I was weaponless, helpless. They would rend me from limb to limb.
In that stress of fear my new self once more resumed the captaincy. Silently it directed me through the foliage, always away from the rustling on every side, and kept me hidden when the other tree dwellers approached. The thick tangle of vines, clinging parasitically to the branches, screened my movements. Never had I seen vegetation so rank.
As I swung, I began to feel an odd sense of security, and an odd companionship with this other ego that guided me so carefully. I knew we would be friends, that this was his domain, and that he would take care of me.
When all was quiet again, I realized that I was hungry. It was my new self that told me this. It also told me I could find berries and roots if I descended, and maybe, somewhere, a grove of coconuts or plantains. I cautiously made my way downward, availing myself of the intertwining branches of a score of trees or more before I reached the ground, fully three hundred feet below.
Nearing the earth floor, I began search for a tree whose branches were not more than six or seven feet from the ground. It was some time before I found one, but I did not care to trust myself on the earth until then. A well-defined sense of unknown terrors peopling the huge fronds of ferns, cane brake, and giant lycopods restrained me from too precipitate descent. I watched the top of the undergrowth carefully, and by and by saw a strange catlike animal stalk something below. It was as big as a tiger, and in its upper jaw, pointing down, were two powerful tusks, like those of a walrus. Years afterward I learned it was Felis Machaerodus, the tiger of the Tertiary.
In a wild panic, I scrambled higher in the tree. The noise I made must have startled the cat's prey, for it darted away in the bush. The beast leaped, but its paws closed on grass. It favored me with a vengeful, hungry stare, but I fled wildly upward. It was some time before even my gnawing hunger nerved me to a second descent, in which I was careful to give wide berth to the area where I had seen the tiger.
When I finally thought the coast clear and dropped to the earth, the instant my foot touched ground, my true self came to the surface and demanded mastery. I put my foot forward confidently to run to a near-by watercourse. Only a few steps. and I stumbled. My legs were cramped and bound, my gait slow and awkward. Free locomotion was impossible. In falling, my knees crooked. As my palms touched the earth, I felt an overpowering inclination to proceed that way. To run on all fours appeared do be the most comfortable method. It was an effort to walk erect.
I found berries and some succulent stalks of a plant like our modern celery. There was also a spring, some distance from the grove. With my true self in complete possession of this new body, I carelessly left the security of the trees and ventured into the reeds and grasses. I was drinking, lying flat, with my lips touching the water, when my faithful guardian, that other self, warned me. I heard a faint rustle and looked up, startled. Not fifteen feet away a huge lizardlike creature had risen from the mud. It was not a crocodile, for it had much longer limbs.
I ran for the trees. Five slow, waddling steps, and the breath of the beast warmed my back. The new self surged to supremacy in the moment of terror. I dropped to all fours and with great leaps kept just ahead. The lowest limb of the nearest tree was fully ten feet above me, but with a supreme, depairing effort I jumped and caught it. Below was the beast. But the touch of my strong, clinging fingers on the limb gave a delicious sense of safety, and I swung upward with scarcely any effort. Stopping on a safe limb, I scolded the brute below. It watched me for a time, with a twinkling malice in its eyes that I could well understand, and that gave me, chattering above, the supremest glee.
All at once I found myself not alone. For the tree was full of other apeman creatures like me, yawping, screeching, growling, and snarling at the beast, taunting it, reviling it, exasperating it with every trick of voice and manner they knew. Finally in futile wrath, with a vain attempt at maintaining dignity, it walked away.
Then they turned on me. The odd feature was that I understood them. This discordant jargon of sound was fully intelligible to my new self. I knew who I was, Aka, the Sentinel. The tribe raged because I had cried the alarm and then played a hide-and-seek game. They snarled at me and spit, Mog, with the long nose, and Ai-yai, the swift one; Ku-ku and Gur, the hags; Kush, the black-haired one, and the younger apes, Go, Hiki, Roo, and Sur. In all that crowd there was only one who said nothing. Baba, the pretty one.
Weird. guttural sounds they uttered, inarticulate cursing, voicing the primitive brute passion of anger. I gave back snarl for snarl, and curse for curse. glorying that they kept away from me, for I knew they were afraid.
But by and by another apeman came, carefully picking his way through the trees, and swinging slowly and awkwardly. His jumps were shorter than mine, and I saw that he was not at home among the branches.
I knew him at once, Gru, our chief. Straight toward me he came, while the others hushed and moved out of his course. A chill of fear swept through me at the sight of him, looming monstrous among us lesser apemen, his enormous chest expanding rhythmically, his heavily muscled arms nearly twice the size of mine, and his fingers reaching below his knees. His forehead was nearly flat, but his chin jutted out in a heavy ridge of bone, much farther than mine or any of the others. I had plenty of time to escape, but something told me it would be useless. My snarls died to a faint whine as I cowered.
His huge hand no need to double it into a fist swung out and gave me a violent cuff. In a flash, I was all brute that moment; I tried to bury my teeth in his forearm. I snapped air, and at the same instant suffered a second cruel blow, that sent me crashing to the ground. I wildly threw out my hands, with the instinctive motion of that first moment of my awakening into this life, and caught a branch to stop my fall. With a fierce wrath burning in my heart, that numbed every human emotion, but thoroughly cowed and subdued, I remained there.
Gru signaled a retreat. At the sound of his hoarse. discordant voice, I raged with a hate I could scarce stifle. Although I obeyed the order, I bided my time.
Physically. I knew. I was no match for him, but at that moment I began plotting to kill him. The thought gave me an intense, savage joy I cannot describe so keen and so thrilling was the anticipation of my teeth in his throat. In a human state I have never experienced such ecstatic joy. Civilization dulls our sense of pleasure.
Covertly I watched Gru. I observed that his predominance was purely a physical one. He was not so swift in the trees, nor were his wits so keen as the others, for he blundered often into great branchless gaps where farther progress was impossible on the route he picked. His covering of hair was much coarser and heavier than ours. Some I noticed, particularly the females, were only lightly covered except about the head. Gru's head was set between his shoulders on a thick, short neck, like a gorilla's. He also had another gorilla characteristic, slight ridges on the frontal arches above the eyebrows. His arboreal habits, however, caused me to doubt that he should be classified a gorilla. He was either an atavism or a stranger to this tribe, I concluded; one nearer related to the monkey than to man, while the other apemen were nearer human.
Baba remained close to Gru, and was always watched with his jealous eye. She was fairer than any of her sisters. She was his mate, and I hated him for that.
The first emotions of hatred and revengefulness were activities of my apeman mind. The first plotting for revenge was also in my apeman mind. But it was too simply constructed to reason closely. Without realizing it, my human intelligence came to its aid and formed conclusions. The apeman eyes saw, and the human mind interpreted.
While the human mind reflected on the sensations transmitted to it through the apeman organs of sight, hearing, touch, and smell, the apeman mind was quietly active in looking after the necessities of existence. Both thought functions were synchronous; one conscious, the other subconscious, and neither interfering with the other. But in moments of stress, the human mild wholly retired, until the tension relaxed, when it quickly carne to the fore again.
My human intelligence also had a perfect knowledge and memory of my apeman mind's thought processes. But the apeman mind had no memory of its own processes, except those immediately antecedent, and none whatever of the human mind's processes. It had only an instinctive recollection of friends and foes, what was good to eat and what not. The powers of reflection and apperception that enable a human to abstract were entirely lacking.
After making these discoveries, I had a vision. If I, by a tremendous self-control, could subdue the beast passions which my present body was subject to, if I could reduce to a minimum those stresses and strains of sudden peril or acute hunger or thirst which repressed the human, if I could make this apeman intelligence a mere servant intelligence to minister to my physical wants, to what heights might I not rise in this apeman world? What good could I not accomplish? I knew their language, and was one of them. How many centuries might I not advance civilization by humanizing this tribe?
But had they souls? Could they reason? If they themselves could not reason, they at least were near the day when those of their kind could. A few generations, perhaps. This tribal grouping under a single leader indicated a social relation existing between these creatures which must necessarily imply an advance above the monkey stage of evolution. Could I not anticipate that day with them?
The vision staggered me. I forgot that an apeman lust for revenge and slaughter had possessed me a few moments before. I forgot that strange dominance of my new self in moments of stress. I forgot my shambling gait, and the tendency to walk on all fours. I was filled with the dream of being a Moses to the apemen, little realizing that the story of ages of gradual ascent from savagery was written on the rocks and in the bone breccias and kjokken modden of Europe and America.
Gru growled. My normal consciousness instantly was submerged under the fear of another beating. I had been lagging, but mended my pace with frantic eagerness to avoid a blow. My apeman self, which only a little while before performed only the necessary mechanical functions of locomotion, was now dominant again, shamming obedience, while it lusted to kill.
For some time we had been gradually ascending, and were now possibly a hundred feet above the ground. I caught a glimpse of sunlight ahead, and in a moment we broke into a glade. There, clustered about the central trunk of a great tree, centuries old, was the village of the apemen. A rude platform, fashioned of canes and branches, cunningly bound by vines to the parent trunk, formed the foundation for a cluster of eight or ten small huts.
The term "huts" is almost too dignified, for they were only rough shelters of rushes and reeds on a trip of sturdy canes, that served to protect in a measure from the violence of torrential rains to which these regions were subject. In these huts our small company of about twenty-five herded. One of them was my home.
Home? Could one of these huts, where I must lie huddled with three or four other brutes, be home to me? Again the human to the fore. Rather than the security of such a society I would roost in the treetops and take my chances with the animal life that might infest them.
The sun was sinking. But the twilight crept on gradually, not instantaneously, as in the equatorial belt. This must be the temperate zone. But which one? And where? There were no maps; there was no one to give information. The contour of the continents must be vastly different from that of the historical period. Judging from the vegetation, I must be existing before the glacial epoch.
As the darkness gathered, the other apemen crept into the huts. From below us the night noises of the forest began to rise. Myriad were they the buzzing of insects, the tweet and twitter of small feathered folk, the shriller cries of larger birds, the hoarse snarls of carnivora. I had remained outside at first, but when I heard the warning chirps of the birds, and the quavering call of a creature that I instinctively knew was of tigerish breed, I shivered in fear. Manhood reverted before the pithecoid ape, and I skulked with my fellows, Go, Hiki, and Roo. Gru growled in answer to the call of some cougar, and we felt security in his presence. At the same time morning light would bring back the old murder lust.
I could not sleep. The other apemen soon fell into a restive slumber, alert at every slight noise near the camp. But as I gradually accustomed myself to the night and relaxed my muscles, my human ego marshaled the experiences of that wonderful day, one by one, and reviewed them. I puzzled over the odd flitting from one consciousness to the other; that I was now human, now apeman; now a reasoning creature with moral instincts, now beast with only a measure of cunning and petty intelligence to lift me above other animals.
When questions involving my corporal existence were before me, I was apeman. In moments of isolation from my fellows, when they made no demands upon my intelligence, and events made no demands upon it, I was human. But in this life, constant vigilance was the price of existence, and to be one of the tribe my only chance for life. I did not want to die. Here Scott could find my soul again and resurrect it.
I sent a fleeting thought back to my human body, lying stiff and stark, I pictured it, in the hut on the Jutahy. But what if some one borrowed it, the way I did this apeman's. The very thought frightened me, and I dismissed it quickly.
It was passing strange, this flitting from one consciousness to the other. Would the two souls eventually merge? Already there was a recognizable understanding between them, each performing the functions for which it was best fitted. My new ego was developing a power for reasoning that I knew it did not possess in the morning. It must derive this power from my true self. Like an electric current sparking from a wire of higher potential to one of lower potential, my more highly organized human soul fed thought power to the apeman soul.
Presuming that the two became one, what would be the result? Would I elevate the apeman to human? Or would the apeman debase the human? Would the taint of this experience sear my soul, brutalize me once I returned to take my own place among humanity? Question upon question dinned in my brain. Only the future could answer.
To retain the soul of a human in the flesh of a beast, I must live like a human. Would the other apemen tolerate it? They were insatiably curious. But I thought they would except Gru. Him I instinctively felt to be my enemy. I must kill him, or he would kill me. He would surely destroy my human soul, and probably this corporal body also. Life was never dearer than just at that moment, when it seemed most worthless. I would match my human wits against his beast cunning and strength. I was swifter in the trees than he, and could bide my time.
When dawn came, I went to the spring. I saw Gru watch me as I left, but he made no attempt to stop me. Probably I was in the habit of taking these excursions. Mog, Kush, and Ku-ku, the older apemen, looked at me queerly, as if they distrusted me. They must have sensed a difference in me, must have intuitively recognized that I was not what I had been. The human was beginning to display itself, I surmised. After I left, I noticed Hiki. Go, and Sur following.
I bathed with relish. I had no soap, and was coated with dirt and full of vermin, but keeping a wary eye on the patch of rushes, danced about in the pool in glee and poured water over my body. Hiki, Go, and Sur remained in the trees. staring with a lively curiosity. After a half hour's bath, I looked about until I found a firm, leathery leaf, of considerable size. With the aid of some long grasses as threads, I converted it into a tolerable shirt. My fingers were clumsy, unbelievably clumsy and awkward, and at times I almost despaired, but I persevered and finally had my garment complete and tied about my waist. I had taken a bath.
I was wearing clothes again.
Simple things. But they made a wonderful change in me. The human was no longer ashamed. It felt invigorated, too, by the plunge in the cool waters of the spring. I felt a man. The inclination of yesterday to walk on all fours was gone. My gait was improved and I walked with more freedom. The muscles of my limbs appeared less bound. I squared my shoulders and added height and dignity. The pool was a mirror, crystal clear, and I strutted before it, actually proud of my improved carriage and bearing.
This feeling of elevation was by no means confined to my human self. It seeped through to the apeman ego, which began dimly to understand these new standards. The cold plunge had been a pleasant experience; ergo, it must be good, so it reasoned. The abstract concept of cleanliness as a virtue was still far beyond it. The concrete pleasure was all it could realize. But it was a beginning.
This relapse into my new ego occurred while I was hunting breakfast. Oddly, I had not thought of hunger while bathing or tailoring. But when I saw Hiki munching plaintains my normal self, still reflecting on the maxim, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," was swamped before a physical desire to have some plantains, too, and at once I became apeman again.
Alone, fed, and in no danger, I was human. With my fellows, or hungry, or in danger, I was apeman. Under such circumstances, which would control, the apeman or the human? Already the line of cleavage was less distinct.
Go, Hiki, and Sur, when I joined them, kept aloof from me with what I fancied was a new respect. After we had chattered together, and hunted roots and berries for a time, one of them finally approached me timidly and began examining my leaf shirt. With sudden disgust at their nakedness, I showed them how it was fashioned. They followed me eagerly.
We made four shirts, one for each of them. or rather, I made them, for my manual skill, through practice, was greater than theirs. They wore them timidly; to copy after me and not because of a sense of shame, I afterward realized.
I was watching the clouds in a reverie when the human soul emerged from the darkness and possessed me again. Suddenly came a thought that bore it aloft on pinions of hope. I trembled at the discovery I had made, and scarcely dared believe.
When I experienced disgust at the nakedness of Go, Hiki, and Stir, and made them shirts, I was all apeman. This new self had experienced shame. It had commanded my hands to conceal that shame. and they did it.
It could mean only one thing. A progressive impulse, a virtue, had been born in this dark, savage, apeman mind of mine. No direct outside suggestion had put it there. Carefully I recollected my thoughts, and was certain that there had been no prompting from my human self. It had been entirely dormant.
To be ashamed what a happiness! To know a wrong what a joy! A virtue was born on the earth. I was not an apeman. I was human.. I could think. I knew evil. O divine sense of knowing good and knowing ill!
Go, Hiki, and Sur kept away from me again and stared. Let them stare. They are brutes, I am human. In both body and soul, I am human. I am born again. I am the prophet, the leader, the Moses of the Tertiary. These creatures already apprehend my superior intelligence.
Go screeched a shrill warning. Instantaneously the apeman soul controlled. I scrambled wildly up the nearest tree. My hand just reached the nearest branch when a dreadful something hurled itself against the trunk. Its cruel claws sank into the muscles of my left leg, almost to the knee. But for the wonderful strength in my fingers, I must have been torn to the ground. But I pulled myself up, while the beast fell. I scrambled ten or twelve feet higher before I dared look down. There was the jungle cat, Felis Machaerodus, licking a bloody paw.
Moaning with pain, for I was all beast, I examined the wound. The tough hide was torn to shreds, and the muscles badly lacerated. The other apes had fled.
The leg rapidly stiffened; and I lost much blood. My human soul entirely deserted me. It was not even in the background to offer friendly suggestions. As a consequence I left the wound untouched, and it bled freely. I was very weak when I finally reached the village. Luckily Gru was gone.
Whimpering and whining over the hurt, I crept into one of the huts. The wound gave me much pain. The other apes, particularly the women, gathered inquisitively, gibbering and chattering, but helpless. Their curiosity finally sated, they left me.
All but one Gru's mate, Baba. With big eyes beaming sympathetically, she watched me silently.
My human intelligence finally broke through the cloud again faintly, and suggested that I make a tourniquet of some sort to stop the blood flow. But by this time I was helpless and could hardly move, let alone essaying a trip through the treetops. Despairing, I was ready to give up hope when Baba's big eyes gave me an inspiration. Simulating twisting a cord about my leg, I tried to tell her what I wanted. At first she failed to understand. Our apeman language was pitifully inadequate for such situations as these. But finally a flicker of comprehension came into her eyes. In a few moments she returned with some pliant vine growth, and broke into an excited and happy chatter as I tightened it about my leg.
By this time a raging thirst parched my tongue. To reach water was impossible. I must suffer in agony. My tongue clave to the roof of my mouth. What tortures would the succeeding hours bring?
Baba stood about helplessly. There were no utensils. I chanced to see a big marine shell, probably picked up on some distant seashore, and pointed to it. "Ood, ood," I begged, the appeal. for water. Baba understood and hurried away.
Oh, the horrors of thirst! Forty minutes passed, and she was, not back. Something must have delayed her. or she had forgotten me. The tiger was keeping her from the spring. Worse, he had killed her. That fear increased the agony.
I was feverish now, and my dry lips cracked and split from lack of moisture. My tongue became swollen. I had no human patience and resignation to summon in this hour of trial, no stoicism, but tossed about in intense suffering.
Hour after hour, it seemed, I tossed there, although I know it was only minutes. Finally an apeman crawled in, bearing the precious shell. It was only half full of water, muddy at that, but it was the purest, most refreshing draft I ever drank. I slept after that, and, when I awoke, the fever was gone. The wound already showed signs of healing.
I was surprised at the stillness in the, camp. Going outside, I found the tribe gone. Had they deserted me? I did not care; I could provide for myself.
For a week, while the wound gradually healed, I rested. I found another spring, directly under the protecting boughs of a tree, into which I could leap at the first sign of danger. I bathed there daily, and breakfasted, dined. and supped on the succulent fruits and fresh berries of the woods. I grew to know and love the surrounding country, with its mysteries and dangers, its giant flora, and its fierce fauna.
It was a beautiful country. The modern world has nothing to equal it, not even the dense silvas of the Amazon. Trees now long extinct lifted magnificent crowns of foliage over dank dells where huge tree ferns, megaphyton magnificum, and scores of others, struggled for mastery with dense thickets of calamites, tall, cylindrical branchless stems, with whorls of branchlets bearing needlelike leaves and spreading in stools from the base. Sometimes there were forests of Sagillaria, to remind us that the carboniferous era was not yet displaced; the tall, pillarlike trunks ;rising like Corinthian columns. On the higher ground were somber taxine pines, mingled with familiar deciduous trees, then just coming into their own.
One thing I missed. That was meat. Whenever I saw a bird roosting in a treetop, or saw one of the smaller creatures scurrying among the grasses below, I had a fierce, saving longing to kill it. My apeman self yearned to sink teeth in the raw flesh and taste blood. But though the longing was at times almost unconquerable, my human soul retained its grip. As the days passed, I could feel new impulses stir in the brute soul. Memory became stronger. Reasoning power began to develop. The human was largely ascendant and distinctly triumphing.
When a week had passed, I began to feel a strange restlessness. I could not define it or analyze it. I mooned around the camp, and when need for food called me away, I hurried back as soon as I could to become wretched again.
At first I could not understand this feeling. But one morning, the seventh day after the tribe left me, I realized what it was. I was lonely. With a great and overwhelming longing I yearned for the companionship of my fellows. Incredible as it may appear, I found the companionship of apemen preferable to a solitary existence.
Coming home from the spring one day, I heard the old chatter in the camp above. It was more than chatter; it was a wild, savage, bestial paean of victory, of success in the chase. It was the call to meat.
Instantly the human soul, ascendant almost entirely during the past week, was submerged. With a fierce answering cry of welcome I swept upward and burst into the tree village. There was meat there, meat for the women and children, meat for the killers. Gru was parceling it out. Avidly I swept forward and snatched at a piece. Gru jerked it away before my fingers closed on it, and struck me heavily. Mad with rage, I sprang at him. His long arms met me, and his fingers closed cruelly on my throat. Choking and shaking me, he threw me aside. I lay there, cowed and gasping, quaking with helpless fury. Though they hated Gtu as much as I, Mog and Kush, Ai-yai and Sur, leered and chuckled at my misery, gorging meat while I hungered.
The smell of blood and flesh food filled the camp, but I was the only one denied, the pariah, sitting outside the circle like a leper beyond the city wall. I knew the reason, I was a grown male but not one of the killers. Meat was only for those who came back from the chase with food for their mates and offspring.
How, I hated! All the time Gru watched me, always between me and the meat, and always facing me. He divined the thoughts in my mind, and grimly waited for the test of strength in which it was his life or mine. He sensed the change in me and realized I was a menace to his chieftainship. He knew that some time we must meet, fang to fang, his strength against my cunning. I believe he feared my superior intelligence, and wanted to provoke the fight now, when I was at a disadvantage. What impulse induced him to let me go when he had his fingers on my throat, I do not know. Perhaps he enjoyed my helpless writhings in the savage, insatiable rage that possessed me.
Though the others jeered, I did not notice them. They were the rabble, the hoi polloi, who cheered for the topmost. It was he to-day, and I to-morrow if I won.
As I gradually cooled while the gluttons, gorged to repletion, sank into sodden slumber, I missed some one from the camp. I scanned the faces vaguely, wondering who it was. Then I remembered; it was Baba, Gru's mate.
At once I was stirred to action. I took the census again. She was not there. Had an accident befallen her? Had she perished on the trip, a victim of the tiger or some other jungle beast? In my present disgrace, I could not ask the other apemen.
Since she roughly nursed me, I felt a strange, savage regard for her. It was as if she was mine to protect and care for, not Gru's. When alone, I had thought of her and wondered why she sent some one else with the water. When I lay wounded, I did not realize it at the time, but that savage regard was the first primitive impulse of the emotion idealized in man as love. Like a blind child, lost in a great city, the divine passion groped about in my gross, carnal heart.
Gru had taken her from the camp; he was responsible for her. If she had fallen a victim in the chase, the fault was his. He should not have exposed her to danger. Thus I reasoned.
But Baba was not forward. A timid creature, she clung to the trees where she had a chance to escape. Had Gru in one of his rages The very thought reawoke me to fury. Half beside myself, I climbed into the higher branches.
I had not gone far when I heard a rustle, and turned quickly enough to catch sight of a slight brown form disappearing into the foliage. It was Baba.
In quick pursuit I followed, but she was the swifter, and led me a merry chase, doubling back and forth until I was out of breath, keeping all the time just out of reach, and when I lost her, revealing her recess to me by a chuckling sort of noise that was suspiciously like laughter. None of the other apemen produced a note like it.
Finally I caught her. It was on a big, gnarled branch, close to the parent trunk, where there was room and to spare for two of the apeman race to cling side by side. The coquette waited there just a second too long, just long enough to be caught. As my arm swung around her waist, she strained from me, then yielded.
Not until then did I observe that she wore clothing like myself.
The discovery momentarily awoke my dormant human consciousness. In a flash I realized that the impulse to progress that was in me since this human soul tenanted me was in her, too. If this were true, was it not possible that the same impulse had existed in me before my human soul began dwelling in this body? Could this explain her evident interest in me?
Of all the apemen creatures, Baba and I were the only ones to wear dress. Go, Hiki, and Sur long ago had discarded their shirts. Familiarity with them had bred contempt. Curiosity was sated, and there was no sense of shame. But with Baba it was different. Without ever seeing me make a garment, she had observed mine and made one like it. Pascal discovering the principles of geometry before reading Euclid, Morse inventing the telegraph, were no more original geniuses.
It was because she knew shame that she did not come back with the water herself. That failure to return had puzzled me. Now I knew.
Then like a resurging wave came the thought of her gorillalike mate. The flicker of the human, that had enabled me to make these reflections, perished before brute hate. With its death came a tremendous physical attraction for this shy wild creature, and desire to keep her from the brute that owned her.
How long we chattered there, courting in the greenwood, the Corydon and Amaryllis of the Tertiary, I do not know.
A gasp, and she cowered against me. Within a foot of my face. agitated by every beast and primitive man passion, looming gigantic, blood-mad, was the face of the gorilla. Gru. Slathers of sputum covered his dripping jaws; his eyes bulged horribly, and were lit by a demoniac glare of revenge lust and murder, and his huge yellow fangs were bared. Numb with terror, I clung motionless while his powerful arms whirled around me and he pressed me to his breast.
My breath was forced out in all explosive gasp. Utterly helpless in that grip, I could feel my ribs strain and bend. His teeth closed in my throat and bit savagely into the tough skin. My brain reeled dizzily. I was suffocating. But just as endurance was about to give way, and my ribs appeared to crumble under the terrific pressure, he gave a savage howl of pain and swung his arms aside. I caught a fleeting glimpse of Baba forcing her long nails into his eyes as I dropped to a lower limb. In a flash she was with me.
With a snarl of rage, Gru followed. I was too weak to leap, and the limbs danced and doubIed before me, but his hoarse growl and the vivid recollection of the awful moment in his arms nerved me to my best speed. On and on we went; a mile, two miles, he ever behind, a terrible Nemesis. Hearts near to bursting, throats burning, on the point of collapse we raced, only yards ahead. We reached the end of the forest. Three hundred yards away was another wood, that led up a distant slope. Between was cane brake and grasses, bordering a small stream. In that tangle we knew lurked the jungle cat and other carnivora, huge lizards of the dinosaur type and poisonous reptiles, but without hesitation we dropped to the ground and ran for the distant grove. Without hesitation, Gru followed.
In the trees, we had gained slightly. But here on the ground he was the faster. We leaped into the stream. Baba hesitated just an instant at a brink, nearly a fatal instant, for Gru gained several steps. I pulled her across, just ahead of him. I seemed to feel his fingers touching my back as we jumped.
Plunging into a thicket of low tree ferns, we dashed into the midst of a family of bears. The she-bear was seated on its haunches, and at the sight of us, charged. Only a quick leap saved us. But Gru, intent on his pursuit, did not try to avoid her. She slashed at him with her claws, but his powerful right hand caught the arm and wrenched it back as he eluded her. It gave us a few yards' lead, enough to reach the trees and scramble to the first tier of branches. It was not long before we were out of sight, fleeing silently, dodging here and here, until we finally lost him.
The sun was setting, but the fear of the brute behind us was greater than our fear of unknown perils before. Keeping as high in the trees as possible, where no climbing beasts could find us, we burrowed into a dense crown of leafery to find the heart of the forest. A full moon helped us, and when it finally set, we found a secure perch where we thought ourselves safe.
The next morning we ventured charily about until we found a spring and fruit. Now that we were alone together, I detected a slight but unmistakable shyness in Baba. It was another human attribute that pleased.
That Gru would search until he found us, I was certain. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, was the law of the primitive apeman. I must prepare to meet him on more equal terms. I must meet his brute strength with something to offset it.
What one thing must I do to protect us? I had known, but now I did not know. My apeman soul groped through the dusk of stupidity for it. The feeble intellect, unable to perceive more than the concrete thing before it, unable to recall any fact but the most vivid experiences, was fogged in by the narrow periphery of the visible world. It revolved about one bit of knowledge, stubbornly persisting, that somewhere there was a friend who always knew and suggested the right thing; some silent voice whose counsel was always wise and secure.
While the apeman vainly strove to pierce the dense pall, the human, what it craved for, was asleep. The human element was as distant as if it had gone back to the body from which it came, leaving the savage soul with only a faint remembrance of its former presence, dim as a wan moon shining through fleece clouds.
Baba, sensing my trouble, beamed sympathetically, but was no inspiration. My apeman temper was short. Irritated at my inability to grasp this unknown something. I climbed to the treetops, leaving her behind. The vision of wave upon wave of fresh, green foliage, rolling in the stiff morning breeze that swept up the slope to the mountain chain far beyond, had no sense of beauty for me. But while I rested there quietly, my apeman soul gradually composed. I closed my eyes, swinging languorously in the cradle of the Tertiary. Finally I opened them again and saw nature's beauty. The human soul had reawakened.
For a moment I thrilled with joy. Then came the horrifying realization that I had been unable to recall the human at will as before. It was slipping away. Yet during the past week it had almost exclusively controlled, and I was only rarely brute.
I strove to reason calmly, lest excess of fear should cause me to lose this precious gift again. When I was alone, and could perceive and reflect without distraction, I was human. When I was with others, and must conform with their lives, I was apeman as they. With the smell of raw flesh I had become brute. Extremity of terror as we fled with Gru at our heels had nearIy destroyed the human. Society with my fellows and the stress and strain of this life were inevitably brutalizing me.
Gone was the dream of being the Moses of the age. Gone was the longing for society. I must live alone, and take my chances of existence in this wild life without outside aid. Else brutefaction.
I would be lonely sometimes; hungry for companionship. Solitude was hideous. I would be afraid sometimes. Rather these than be brute.
But there was Baba. What should I do with her? She could not go back to Gru. She could not be left alone. I had no right to condemn her to my hermit existence.
I had almost mated with her. Drunk with the smell of blood and raw flesh, I had thought this thing. I, human, and she, half beast; lower in savagery than the Hottentot.
What a hell I was dropping into! Looking into that deep blue sky, sublimely peaceful, and the thousands of rhythmically waving treetops chanting their morning prayer, drinking in all of the beauty of that wonderful morning, I began to perceive the slough I had barely escaped.
A mental nausea. a disgust of self and life, an intolerable loathing for the half of me, or more than half that craved such an existence, overwhelmed me. Vainly I searched for an outlet. Vainly I sobbed and shook, begged, prayed. There was only one way out Scott. That inexorable fact, branded home, coming as a sequence to all the horrors and loathing, aroused an elemental fury in which I cursed him and damned him to torments a thousand times more terrible than mine if there could be such a hell.
Only when I was exhausted came the thought of the bitter futility of raving. There was suicide. I believe I would have risked it a plunge down, and oblivion come Nirvana. Hell; come what may; it could not be worse when I heard a chuckle.
It was Baba. Just below me. I saw her smiling up mischievously, like a puppy frantic at finding its master. She chuckled again, the same half-human laughter I had heard before.
I saw only her coarse features, her retreating brow and protruding jaw, the bristly hair that covered her body, the fanglike teeth, yellow and coated. My human soul revolted. As she leaped upward with agility, I kicked at her.
A look of astonishment and hurt, a pain not physical but verily distress of the soul, swept her face. She stopped a moment, then hesitant, as if half believing the evidence of her senses, she came nearer. So infinitely pathetic was that movement that I half relented for a moment. Then I saw her ugliness again, frowned, and backed away. She placed a hand on me, but I shoved it aside roughly, with loathing.
Like a woman, cut to the quick. Baba sprang down. A flurry in the leaves, and she was gone. I waited, but she did not come back.
Perhaps I was not treating her fairly. I should guide her back to her people, I reflected. I had brought her here, not my human self, but still I, and I must take her back. Alone in the woods, she would surely perish.
Descending in search, I finally found her huddled in the crotch of a branch. Her face was buried in her arms, that were folded over her chest. She did not hear me, and I touched her shoulder.
The unutterable woe that spoke mutely from her face as she lifted it still reproaches me. For if ever the primitive apeman soul that dwelt in her body ascended into the human in its emotions it did that moment. Her face was transfigured. Every trace of coarseness was gone. The fangs were there, and the bristly hair, and the retreating skull, but one did not notice these. It was the indefinable something expressive of deepest loss, an indescribable pathos that humanized her and made her kin.
Nothing was said. A great tear formed in one of her glistening eyes and rolled down. At the sight the calm, reasoning human element in me that philosophized and abstracted and made long plans for a distant future was inundated by a flood of emotion that welled from the depths of my apeman soul and made me companion to her once more. In a flash I was beside her, and my arms around her, tuning my harsh, guttural voice to a cooing note.
Suddenly she pulled away, and her eyes searched my eyes with an intensity of gaze that brooked no denial, that wanted to know the truth.
I have lied to a good many women, those polite lies which social usage demands; told women foolish things I did not mean but that they liked to hear, flirted and fibbed, and done all the other drawing-room tricks, and never blinked an eyelid or thought a minute the worse of myself. But I could not lie to Baba. Those big, appealing eyes asked woman's one essential question, and asked it as, a woman asks. Differences of time and race were swept away.
Half of me was apeman, and that half would mate with her. She saw that, I guess. The other half of me was human, and that half could never be hers. I guess she saw that, too. A woman of the underworld, loved by and madly loving a clean, vigorous boy, mind and body yet untainted, with every instinct for health and right living, knows the inevitable great renunciation.
For Baba turned sadly away, and leaped from me. I did not follow.
TO BE CONCLUDED.
The second and concluding part of this novel will appear in the first October POPULAR, on sale September 7th.
Thanks to Camille E. Cazedessus of Pulpdom magazine, who brought this story to my attention, and provided a copy of Part I.