AS twilight approached, drifting shadows softly stole upon the secluded valley where flowed a mystic river. Luxuriant foliage grew on either bank as far back as the eye might penetrate and over the river itself drooped hanging branches festooned with trailing vines of feathery moss which met the surface of the water. Over this tranquil scene rested a peaceful silence unbroken save for the lapping of the water and a frequent cry of some bird in the forest.
Suddenly without warning a booming roar shook the jungle and a susceptible vibration might have been discerned in the waving of the trailing mosses. Crashing through the underbrush unheedful of all obstacles came a huge engine of destruction embodied in the caricature of a bulky form twice the size, but bearing similar resemblance to the modern elephant. Connected to the colossal body stretched an angular trunk and over the body bristled a coat of thick shaggy hair. Bellowing loudly the creature rambled on towards the river, snapping off young trees and bushes in its clumsy strides. Behold, advancing rapidly to the water’s edge comes one of Nature’s most terrible creations, the Mastodon of the Quaternary age.
But the attention of the huge beast is not centered on the river, but on the fleeing figure of a man. Puny, diminutive man clothed only in a spotted animal skin with a stone axe and a margin of eight feet between himself and yawning death. With a last superhuman effort the man reached the high bank bordering the stream and launched himself at a hanging branch, which with his weight, swung out over the stream and dropped him in the water near the other bank. Wearily he drew himself up on the shore and gazed across the deep swirling current at the defeated monster, who, roaring in hungry anguish at this unexpected turn of affairs, turned and entered the jungle in search of other prospective food.
Seated there in utter exhaustion the creature, whose future generations were destined to rule the earth, presented a striking appearance. Huge hands, straggling hair and rolling muscles of crushing strength mingled with various signs of intellect betrayed in his features, served to set him apart from the other creatures.
WHEN he had rested to his satisfaction, he arose and unslung the axe from off his back and holding it in readiness he entered the jungle. He walked stealthily with measured tread and it was but a short time before he reached a small clearing in the middle of which was a pond fed by a rippling creek. Quietly lapping the water were two four-footed animals resembling deer but much smaller. The man carefully raised the stone axe back of his head and with a mighty swing sent it hurtling into the head of the nearest animal who dropped on its side while its companion fled with a startled snort.
The man walked to the middle of the clearing and swung the little animal to his shoulder after assuring himself that it was dead.
With his burden of food he walked on once more and presently noises could be heard which were of a human character. As he approached nearer his destination the sounds transformed themselves into a crude form of speech. He was home at last, for rounding a bend in the trail he appeared suddenly before a group of similar human beings clothed like himself who were engaged in peaceful duties in front of their respective caves.
Entering his own cave he deposited his freshly killed meat on the shaggy rug which once adorned the enormous body of a Mastodon. A female, evidently his mate, entered from an inner recess of the cave and voiced her approval at the luck of her hunter.
“Banto, you have had good luck today in your hunts, have you not?” queried she.
“Aye, Toorla, for here is fresh meat for us and our son, Youba, wherever he may be.”
“He,” said she, “is off on an expedition with some others of our people to the yonder side of the mountain where dwells our hated neighboring tribe. They are gone in attempts to free our people who were captivated but a few suns ago. Everyone expects them back soon, perhaps this very night.”
Together they ate their fill of raw meat in meditative silence after which Banto, tired from the day’s exertions, curled up on the floor of the cave and went to sleep, ignoring the coming darkness with its myriad of sounds from the animal life in the surrounding forest.
NIGHT passed slowly with a full moon shining softly on the jungle beneath with its pre-historic carnivora. Banto slept a peaceful sleep until the hour preceding dawn when he awakened with a start, hearing cries of excitement among his fellow-men outside. Rising softly he picked up his axe and left the cave, going to where many of his companions were grouped together talking with a lone man whose chest rose and fell as he panted from his exertions of running.
Banto perceived him to be one of their own people who had gone on the expedition. He listened as the man narrated the adventures of the little band.
Yes, they had reached the settlement of the cruel Taj and had lured the inhabitants out of the village to do battle while others released their imprisoned people.
They had then fled, but meeting one of Taj’s hunting parties returning, they had been besieged in a narrow canon this side of Taj’s village. Youba, son of Banto, was at the head of the besieged people who were now contending against a double force. Banto and a good fifty of his comrades hurried to where the brave little band were slowly but surely relinquishing the mouth of the canon to the overwhelming forces headed by Taj.
The relief party dashed in on the scene and soon a bloody fight was staged with cries and shrieks that startled every animal great and small within a half a mile. Stone axes swung upon skulls, spears pierced yielding flesh, men rolled together on the ground in mortal combat reaching curved thumbs in attempts to gouge eyes; while others becoming disarmed of their weapons sought their opponent’s throat with strong, white teeth. Wounded men lay gasping out their lives on the turf while more victorious fighters, daubed with the blood of their latest conquest, aided sore and wounded comrades.
Slowly but surely the followers of Taj were being wiped out of existence by Banto’s people. But at a terrible forfeit. Men of each side were laying dead in carmine pools of their own blood.
Banto, in the thick of the fight, wielded his axe with victorious cry and mowed down all enemies that confronted him. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find his son, Youba, addressing him.
“Father, let us make haste after Taj for he is escaping over yonder.”
“Aye, my son, we must kill the brute by all means.” Setting off at a brisk run they followed the trail of Taj until they came to the swift moving river at which point they discovered a huge log that lay athwart the stream.
“Here is where they crossed,” shouted the father as he ran nimbly across Nature’s improvised bridge, “follow me, my son.”
But Youba never followed. As Banto reached the opposite side the ground gave away and the log tumbled into the river with a huge splash. Father and son stood alone, each on an opposite bank with no place to cross.
While they gazed at the swirling current, aghast at the sudden catastrophe, Taj and three of his followers appeared behind Banto and with cries of triumph seized him and bound him with rawhide thongs. Youba, standing on the opposite bank, gazed in helpless despair realizing the trap that his father had fallen into.
Taj laughed at his discomforture and taunted him. “Your father will soon be meat for the river reptiles, young upstart of a degraded family.”
“Devil! Fiend! Wretch! Filthy murderer! you dare not perpetrate such an outrageous act against a helpless man, my vengeance would follow you forever!” shouted Youba.
“Watch and see,” replied Taj as he turned to issue orders to his men. “Pick him up and hold him on the edge of the bank.”
This they did and Banto bound as he was with death staring him in the face, flinched not. Straight looked he across the stream at Youba and spoke.
“Son, I bid you farewell for never shall I see you more. I go to my death with no emotion except that of deep regret that there is to be such a vile creature, so base as Taj living on this earth. Follow him to his death and wreak on him a mighty vengeance, not only for my sake but for the sake of the many others who have met an abominable death at his hands.”
“To your death, indeed”, howled Taj enraged at the insults tendered him by a helpless man in his power. With a yell of triumph he hurled Banto into the river’s depth where he arose but once and then sank out of sight forever.
Tears came to Youba’s eyes as he voiced his wrath at Taj. Gradually his voice grew calmer with a deadly gravity to its tone.
“Taj, I shall kill you in the end. My vengeance shall follow you to your death; if not there quenched, then it will follow your descendants down through the ages.”
YOUBA never revenged himself on Taj; neither did his sons or grandsons. Taj had a four days’ start on Youba. Before Youba could prepare to ford the stream with his followers he would have to fell a tree across the turbulent stream, or travel many long miles to a crossing. He chose the latter and when he came to find Taj’s trail it lead directly to the ocean for some unaccountable reason.
Youba nor Taj, himself, ever knew that after Taj had crossed a narrow strip of land into what is now England an earthquake had destroyed the ancient land bridge that connected Northern France and Southern England. The abrupt drop of the narrow ridge of land into the English Channel may still be seen today as one gazes at the cliffs of Dover. Youba never relinquished his thoughts of vengeance and Taj never forgot Youba.
THE story shifts to the modern civilization of New York City. We will follow a young man of athletic build as he alights from an auto which draws slowly up to the curb in front of a huge office building. He enters the building and makes his way to an office, on the door of which is lettered: James Peer, Private Detective. He takes off his coat, seats himself in a swivel chair and turns to his mail. Before he has a chance to open the correspondence a bell rings and shortly an office boy enters followed by an excited gentleman of middle age.
“Are you Mr. Peer, the detective?” asked the gentleman.
“I am,” answered the young man at the desk.
“Then you are the very person that I want to see,” stated the gentleman.
“What is your business?” asked the detective.
“Perhaps you remember the arrest of Willie Garm last year for the brutal murder of a defenceless man while he slept. Willie claimed that the man was his enemy who had threatened to kill him.
“Willie Garm was examined by doctors and was found to be insane.”
“I read of the affair in the papers,” answered the detective.
“Willie Garm had the illusion that he had lived two lives. He believed that he had lived during the Quaternary age of our ancient ancestors back in prehistoric times. After his condition was found out he was removed from the prison to the Benton Insane Asylum. Before I go any farther I wish to inform you that I am L. C. Dunstan, manager of this insane asylum.
“But to go on with my story: Willie Garm escaped just a week ago and he has been traced to a certain district in this city. He has kept well under cover but his description has been given to the police who now have a definite idea of where he hangs out.”
“If you know where he is, then why come to me?” questioned young Peer. “Why don’t the police get him?” “That’s just it,” replied the gentleman, “he is too cunning and elusive for a mere handful of common police officers to capture. The police Chief of this district is organizing a picked force of men to track him down and he sent me here after you. He wants your aid in the search party.”
“Oh,” answered the enlightened detective, “that’s different, I’ll be glad to help the Chief. Come, let us go to the station at once and see what his plans are.”
THEY arrived at the station and were soon closeted in conference with the Chief. The Chief issued his instructions.
“What we want to do is to have the place surrounded with sufficient men to prevent his slipping away; then the three of us will quietly enter and make the arrest. By the way, Jim, this particular place is a disreputable boarding house in the slum district. However, we are fully protected by disguised police on the surrounding premises so that all trouble with any of Willie’s pals will be promptly taken care of. This little surprise party is to be pulled off tomorrow morning. At 8:30 sharp, I want you and Mr. Dunstan here and come well heeled. We are taking no chances with a lunatic of Garm’s caliber. If it is necessary to shoot, then shoot to kill.”
ABOUT ten o’clock next morning a car drew up before a large, dirty-looking, square-faced building of three stories situated in one of New York’s slum sections. Two or three hoboes were lounging out in front. Three men stepped out of the car and entered the building while a fourth man remained in the car. Rapidly the three men ascended the steps and entered a long corridor.
“Dunstan, you search the first floor, I will search the second floor while Jim will search the third floor,” directed the Chief. “If either of you discover our man give a yell and it will bring a dozen armed men a running. All right, let’s go. Better place your gats where you can reach them quick.”
James Peer ascended quietly to the third floor bearing in his mind the description of Garm. Room after room he entered. In one room a poker game progressed and he immediately begged the pardon of its inmates for mistaking their room for his own. Similar scenes greeted him in each room, some of the roomers still asleep in their bunks. Certain rooms he came to were unoccupied but presently when near the end of the corridor he came to a door that was locked. He quietly unlocked it with his skeleton keys and entered.
Something whizzed past his head and struck him a glancing blow on the shoulder. Turning quickly he gazed into the leering countenance of Willie Garm. With that one glance James Peer hated Garm with an infinite longing to kill him which puzzled his conscience. But this was no time for reasoning. The detective dove for Willie’s legs just as Willie drew a wicked long knife.
“So you have come at last, have you? You will never take me alive for it is death to all comers while I live,” spoke Garm.
Both went down in a heap on the floor and young Peer reached for the arm that held the dagger. Both men fought like demons for possession of the keen blade, Garm’s super-human fanatical strength striving against the wit and skill of the rough and ready wrestler which Jim Peer possessed.
Both men strained muscle and sinew for the knife, Garm slowly edging the blade’s point towards the detective’s heart. Suddenly, with a quick twist, Peer turned the point and sank it into Willie’s heart. The detective experienced a grim satisfaction that he could not account for and that he later recalled with a feeling of horror.
Garm’s expression turned crypt-like as he gazed over Peer’s shoulder at an apparition that floated in a darkened corner. If Peer could have turned around and looked too, he would have perceived the naked figure of a man with straggly hair whose hands and feet were bound.
“Death be your portion, oh last of a brutal tribe,” these words came in sibilant whispers as the bonds fell from off the apparition, who smiling stood with outspread hands to vanish in thin air.
“He has come for me,” muttered Willie Garm as he gushed blood from the gapping wound.
Willie Garm had heard the message from out of the past while James Peer heard nothing but the trampling of many feet as his comrades came running down the corridor. Willie Garm died and with him ended the “Vengeance of the Ages.”
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