“The advantage he had was merely accidental,” said Andoo. “These things will happen at times.”
“I can’t understand why you let go,” said the she-bear.
That matter had been discussed before, and settled. So Andoo, being a bear of experience, remained silent for a space. Then he resumed upon a different aspect of the matter. “He has a sort of claw—a long claw that he seemed to have first on one paw and then on the other. Just one claw. They’re very odd things. The bright thing, too, they seemed to have—like that glare that comes in the sky in daytime—only it jumps about—it’s really worth seeing. It’s a thing with a root, too—like grass when it is windy.”
“Does it bite?” asked the she-bear. “If it bites it can’t be a plant.”
“No——I don’t know,” said Andoo. “But it’s curious, anyhow.”
“I wonder if they are good eating?” said the she-bear.
“They look it,” said Andoo, with appetite—for the cave bear, like the polar bear, was an incurable carnivore—no roots or honey for him.
The two bears fell into a meditation for a space. Then Andoo resumed his simple attentions to his eye. The sunlight up the green slope before the cave mouth grew warmer in tone and warmer, until it was a ruddy amber.
“Curious sort of thing—day,” said the cave bear. “Lot too much of it, I think. Quite unsuitable for hunting. Dazzles me always. I can’t smell nearly so well by day.”
The she-bear did not answer, but there came a measured crunching sound out of the darkness. She had turned up a bone. Andoo yawned. “Well,” he said. He strolled to the cave mouth and stood with his head projecting, surveying the amphitheatre. He found he had to turn his head completely round to see objects on his right-hand side. No doubt that eye would be all right to-morrow.
He yawned again. There was a tap overhead, and a big mass of chalk flew out from the cliff face, dropped a yard in front of his nose, and starred into a dozen unequal fragments. It startled him extremely.
When he had recovered a little from his shock, he went and sniffed curiously at the representative pieces of the fallen projectile. They had a distinctive flavour, oddly reminiscent of the two drab animals of the ledge. He sat up and pawed the larger lump, and walked round it several times, trying to find a man about it somewhere… .
When night had come he went off down the river gorge to see if he could cut off either of the ledge’s occupants. The ledge was empty, there were no signs of the red thing, but as he was rather hungry he did not loiter long that night, but pushed on to pick up a red deer fawn. He forgot about the drab animals. He found a fawn, but the doe was close by and made an ugly fight for her young. Andoo had to leave the fawn, but as her blood was up she stuck to the attack, and at last he got in a blow of his paw on her nose, and so got hold of her. More meat but less delicacy, and the she-bear, following, had her share. The next afternoon, curiously enough, the very fellow of the first white rock fell, and smashed precisely according to precedent.
The aim of the third, that fell the night after, however, was better. It hit Andoo’s unspeculative skull with a crack that echoed up the cliff, and the white fragments went dancing to all the points of the compass. The she-bear coming after him and sniffing curiously at him, found him lying in an odd sort of attitude, with his head wet and all out of shape. She was a young she-bear, and inexperienced, and having sniffed about him for some time and licked him a little, and so forth, she decided to leave him until the odd mood had passed, and went on her hunting alone.
She looked up the fawn of the red doe they had killed two nights ago, and found it. But it was lonely hunting without Andoo, and she returned caveward before dawn. The sky was grey and overcast, the trees up the gorge were black and unfamiliar, and into her ursine mind came a dim sense of strange and dreary happenings. She lifted up her voice and called Andoo by name. The sides of the gorge re-echoed her.
As she approached the caves she saw in the half light, and heard a couple of jackals scuttle off, and immediately after a hyæna howled and a dozen clumsy bulks went lumbering up the slope, and stopped and yelled derision. “Lord of the rocks and caves—ya-ha!” came down the wind. The dismal feeling in the she-bear’s mind became suddenly acute. She shuffled across the amphitheatre.
“Ya-ha!” said the hyænas, retreating. “Ya-ha!”
The cave bear was not lying quite in the same attitude, because the hyænas had been busy, and in one place his ribs showed white. Dotted over the turf about him lay the smashed fragments of the three great lumps of chalk. And the air was full of the scent of death.
The she-bear stopped dead. Even now, that the great and wonderful Andoo was killed was beyond her believing.