The Makers of Fire

Thecubcameuponitsuddenly.Itwashisownfault.Hehadbeencareless.Hehadleftthecaveandrundowntothestreamtodrink.Itmighthavebeenthathetooknonoticebecausehewasheavywithsleep.(Hehadbeenoutallnightonthemeat-trail,andhadbutjustthenawakened.)Andhiscarelessnessmighthavebeenduetothefamiliarityofthetrailtothepool.Hehadtravelleditoften,andnothinghadeverhappenedonit.

Hewentdownpasttheblastedpine,crossedtheopenspace,andtrottedinamongstthetrees.Then,atthesameinstant,hesawandsmelt.Beforehim,sittingsilentlyontheirhaunches,werefivelivethings,thelikeofwhichhehadneverseenbefore.Itwashisfirstglimpseofmankind.Butatthesightofhimthefivemendidnotspringtotheirfeet,norshowtheirteeth,norsnarl.Theydidnotmove,butsatthere,silentandominous.

Nordidthecubmove.Everyinstinctofhisnaturewouldhaveimpelledhimtodashwildlyaway,hadtherenotsuddenlyandforthefirsttimeariseninhimanotherandcounterinstinct.Agreatawedescendeduponhim.Hewasbeatendowntomovelessnessbyanoverwhelmingsenseofhisownweaknessandlittleness.Herewasmasteryandpower,somethingfarandawaybeyondhim.

Thecubhadneverseenman,yettheinstinctconcerningmanwashis.IndimwaysherecognisedinmantheanimalthathadfoughtitselftoprimacyovertheotheranimalsoftheWild.Notaloneoutofhisowneyes,butoutoftheeyesofallhisancestorswasthecubnowlookinguponmanoutofeyesthathadcircledinthedarknessaroundcountlesswintercamp-fires,thathadpeeredfromsafedistancesandfromtheheartsofthicketsatthestrange,two-leggedanimalthatwaslordoverlivingthings.

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