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,butoutoftheeyesofallhisancestorswasthecubnowlookinguponman outofeyesthathadcircledinthedarknessaroundcountlesswintercamp-fires, thathadpeeredfromsafedistancesandfromtheheartsofthicketsatthestrange,two-leggedanimalthatwaslordoverlivingthings. 

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