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should love only Tur."
The woman interrupted him with an angry stamp of her sandaled foot.
"I hate him," she cried. "I hate him. I love only Nu, the son of Nu."
The man shook his head, and when he spoke it was still in a kindly voice, for he felt only sorrow for the
unhappy woman.
"It is useless, Gron," he said, "for us to speak further upon this matter. Together we must remain until we
have come back to our own countries. But there must be no love, nor more words of love between us.
Do you understand?"
The woman looked at him for a moment. What the emotion that stirred her heart her face did not betray.
It might have been the anger of a woman scorned, or the sorrow of a breaking heart. She took a step
toward him, paused, and then throwing her arms before her face turned and sank to the floor of the cave,
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Nu turned away and stepped out upon the ledge before the cave. His quick eyes scanned the panorama
spread out before him in a single glance. They stopped instantly upon a tiny figure showing across the
forest in the little plain that ran to the edge of the plateau before it dove into the valley beside the inland
sea. It was the figure of a woman. She was running swiftly toward the declivity. Nu puckered his brows.
There was something familiar about the graceful swing of the tiny figure, the twinkling of the little feet as
they raced across the grassy plain. Who could it be? What member of his tribe could have come to this
distant island? It was but an accidental similarity, of course; but yet how wildly his heart beat at the sight
of the distant figure! Could it be? By any remote possibility could Nat-ul have reached this strange
Coming over the edge of the plateau from the valley beyond, Nu saw the leaders of a herd of aurochs.
Behind these must be the herders. Will the girl be able to escape them? Ah, she has seen the beasts --
she has stopped and is looking about for a tree, Nu reasoned, for women are ofttimes afraid of these
shaggy bulls. He remembered, with pride, that his Nat-ul feared little or nothing upon the face of the
earth. She was cautious, of course, else she would not have survived a fortnight. Feared nothing! Nu
smiled. There were two things that filled Nat-ul with terror -- mice and earthquakes.
Now Nu sees the first of the herders upon the flanks of the herd. They are hurrying forward, spears
ready, to ascertain what it is that has brought the leaders to a halt -- what is causing the old king-bull to
bellow and paw the earth. Will the girl see them? Can she escape them? They see her now, and at the
same instant it is evident that she sees them. Is she of their people? If so, she will hasten toward them.
No! She has turned and is running swiftly back toward the forest. The herders spring into swift pursuit.
Nu trembled in excitement. If he only knew. If he only knew!
At his shoulder stood Gron. He had not been aware of her presence. The woman's eyes strained across
the distance to the little figure racing over the clearing toward the forest. Her hands were tightly clenched
against her breast. She too, had been struck with the same fear that haunted Nu. Perhaps she had
received the idea telepathically from the man.
The watchers saw the herders overtake the fugitive, seize her and drag her back toward the edge of the
plateau. The herd was turned back and a moment later all disappeared over the brink. Nu wavered in
indecision. He knew that the captive could not be Nat-ul, and yet something urged him on to her succor.
They were taking her back to the Lake Dwellings! Should he follow? It would be foolish -- and yet
suppose that itshould be Nat-ul. Without a backward glance the man started down the cliff-face. The
woman behind him, reading his intention plainly, took a step after him, her arms outstretched toward him.
"Nu!" she cried. Her voice was low and pleading. The man did not turn. He had no ears, no thoughts
beyond the fear and hope that followed the lithe figure of the captive girl into the hidden valley toward the
distant lake.
Gron threw out her arms toward him in a gesture of supplication. For a moment she stood thus,
motionless. Nu continued his descent of the cliff. He reached the bottom and started off at a rapid trot
toward the forest. Gron clapped her open palm across her eyes, and, turning, staggered back to the
ledge before the cave, where, with a stifled moan she sank to her knees and slipped prone upon the
narrow platform.
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NU REACHED the edge of the plateau in time to see the herders and their captive arrive at the
dwellings on the lake. He saw the crowds of excited natives that ran out to meet them. He saw the
captive pulled and hauled hither and thither. The herders pointed often toward the plateau behind them. It
was evident that Nu's assault upon the sentry of the previous night taken with the capture of this stranger
and the appearance of Nu and Gron upon the cliff the day before had filled the villagers with fear of an
invasion from the south. This only could account for the early return of the herders with their aurochs.
Taking advantage of what cover the descent to the valley afforded and the bushes and trees that dotted
the valley itself, Nu crept cautiously onward toward the lake. He was determined to discover the identity
of the prisoner, though even yet he could not believe that she was Nat-ul. A mile from the shore he was
compelled to hide until dark, for there was less shelter thereafter and, too, there were many of the natives
moving to and fro, having their herds browsing in the bottom lands close to their dwellings.
When it was sufficiently dark Nu crept closer. Again he hid in the reeds, but this time much closer to one
of the causeways. He wished that he knew in precisely which of the dwellings the captive was confined.
He knew that it would be madness to attempt to search the entire village, and yet he saw no other way.
At last the villagers had retired, with the exception of the sentries that guarded the narrow bridges [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]