Charles George Douglas Roberts.

In the morning of time online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryCharles George Douglas RobertsIn the morning of time → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


In the Morning of Time

Mawg swung the limp form across his shoulder with a grin of satisfaction."

[page 149-

In the Morning of Time

By Charles G. D. Roberts Author of

"The Backwoodsman," "The Forge in the Forest,"
"A History of Canada," "More Kindred of the
Wild," etc., etc. :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

With Sight Illustrations




I. — The World without Man i

II. — The King of the Triple Horn . . 20

III. — The Finding of Fire ... 41

IV. — The Children of the Shining One . 70

V. — The Puller-down of Trees . . 98

VI. — The Battle of the Brands . . 125

VII. — The Rescue of A-ya . . . 152

VIII. — The Bending of the Bow . . . 178

IX. — The Destroying Splendour . . 203

X. — The Terrors of the Dark . . 224

XI. — The Feasting of the Cave Folk . 249

XII. — On the Face of the Waters . . 266

XIII.— The Fear 285

XIV. — The Lake of Long Sleep . . . 303


In the Morning of Time



IT lay apparently afloat on the sluggish, faintly
discoloured tide — a placid, horse-faced, shovel-
nosed head, with bumpy holes for ears and immense
round eyes of a somewhat anxious mildness.

The anxiety in the great eyes was not without
reason, for their owner had just arrived in the
tepid and teeming waters of this estuary, and the
creatures which he had already seen about him
were both unknown and menacing. But the
inshore shallows were full of water-weeds of a
rankness and succulence far beyond anything he
had enjoyed in his old habitat, and he was deter-
mined to secure himself a place here.

From time to time, as some new monster came
in sight, the ungainly head would shoot up amaz-
ingly to a distance of five or ten, or even fifteen
feet, on a swaying pillar of a neck, in order to get
a better view of the stranger. Then it would
slowly sink back again to its repose on the water.



The water at this point was almost fresh, because
the estuary, though fully two miles wide, was filled
with the tide of the great river rolling slowly down
from the heart of the continent. The furthet shore
was so flat that nothing could be seen of it but an
endless, pale green forest of giant reeds. But the
nearer shore was skirted, at a distance of perhaps
half a mile from the water, by a rampart of abrupt,
bright, rust-red cliffs. The flat land between the
waterside and the cliffs, except for the wide strip
of beach, was clothed with an enormous and riotous
growth of calamaries, tree-ferns, cane and palm,
which rocked and crashed in places as if some
colossal wayfarers were pushing through them.
Here and there along the edge of the cliffs sat tall
beings with prodigious, saw-toothed beaks, like
some species of bird conceived in a nightmare.

Far out across the water one of these creatures
was flapping slowly in from the sea. Its wings —
eighteen feet across from tip to tip — were not the
wings of a bird, but of a bat or a hobgoblin. It
had dreadful, hand-like claws on its wing-elbows ;
and its feet were those of a lizard.

As this startling shape came flapping shoreward,
the head afloat upon the water eyed it with in-
terest, but not, as it seemed, with any great
apprehension. Yet it certainly looked formidable
enough to excite misgivings in most creatures.
Its flight was not the steady, even winging of a
bird, but spasmodic and violent. It came on at a
height of perhaps twenty feet above the sluggish
tide, and its immense, circular eyes appeared to



take no notice of the strange head that watched
it from the water's surface. It seemed about to
pass a little to one side, when suddenly, with a
hoarse, hooting cry, it swerved and swooped, and
struck at the floating head with open jaws.

Swift as was that unexpected attack, the assailant
struck nothing but a spot of foam where the head
had disappeared. Simultaneously with the light-
ning disappearance, there was a sudden boiling of
the water some eighty-odd feet away. But the
great bird-lizard was ♦either too furious to notice
this phenomenon or not sagacious enough to inter-
pret it. Flopping into the air again, and gnashing
his beaklike jaws with rage, he kept circling about
the spot in heavy zigzags, expecting the harmless-
looking head to reappear.

All at once his expectations were more than
realized. The head not only reappeared, but on
a towering, leather-coloured column of a neck it
shot straight into the air to a height of twenty feet.
The big, placid eyes were now sparkling with anger.
The flat, shovel jaws were gaping open. They
seized the swooping foe by the root of the tail,
and, in spite of screeches and wild flappings, plucked
him down backwards. At the surface of the
water there was a convulsive struggle, and the wide
wings were drawn clean under.

For several minutes the water seethed and
foamed, and little waves ran clattering up the
beach, while the owner of the harmless-looking
head trod his assailant down and crushed him
among the weeds of the bottom. Then the foam



slowly crimsoned, and the mauled, battered body
of the great bird-lizard came up again ; for the
owner of the mysterious head was a feeder on deli-
cate weeds and succulent greenstuff only, and
would eat no blood-bearing food. The body was
still struggling, and the vast, dark, broken wings
spread themselves in feeble spasms on the surface.
But they were not left to struggle long.

The water, in the distance, had been full of eager
spectators of the fight, and now it boiled as they
rushed in upon the disabled prey. Ravenous,
cavern-jawed, fishlike beasts, half-porpoise, half-
alligator, swarmed upon the victim, tearing at it
and at each other. Some bore off trailing mouth-
fuls of dark wing-membrane, others more substan-
tial booty, while the .rest fought madly in the
vortex of discoloured foam.

At the beginning of the fray the grim figures
perched along the red ramparts of the cliff had
shown signs of excitement, lifting their high
shoulders and half unfolding the stiff drapery of
their wings. As they saw their fellow overwhelmed
they launched themselves from their perch and
came hooting hoarsely over the rank, green tops
of the palms and feathery calamaries. Swooping
and circling they gathered over the hideous final
struggle, and from time to time one or another
would drop perpendicularly downward to stab the
crown or the face of one of the preoccupied fish-
beasts with his trenchant beak. Such of the fish-
beasts as were thus disabled were promptly torn
to pieces and devoured by their companions.



Some fifty feet away, nearer shore, the harmless-
looking head which had been the source and
inspirer of all this bloody turmoil lay watching
the scene with discontent in its round, wondering
eyes. Slowly it reared itself once more to a height
of eight or ten feet above the water, as if for better
inspection of the combat. Then, as if not relishing
the neighbourhood of the fish-beasts, it slowly
sank again and disappeared.

Immediately a heavy swirling, a disturbance that
stretched over a distance of nearly a hundred feet,
began to travel shoreward. It grew heavier and
heavier as the water grew shallower. Then a
leather-coloured mountain of a back heaved itself
up through the smother, and a colossal form, that
would make the hugest elephant a pigmy, came
ponderously forth upon the beach.

The body of this amazing being was thrice or
four times the bulk of the mightiest elephant. It
stood highest — a good thirteen feet — over the
haunches (which were supported on legs like
columns), and sloped abruptly to the lower and
lighter-built fore-shoulders. The neck was like
a giraffe's, but over twenty feet in length to its
juncture with the mild little head, which looked
as if Nature had set it there as a pleasantry at the
expense of the titanic body. The tail, enormous
at the base and tapering gradually to a whip-lash,
trailed out to a distance of nearly fifty feet. As
its owner came ashore, this tremendous tail was
gathered and curled in a semi-circle at his side —
perhaps lest the delicate tip, if left too distant,



might fall a prey to some insignificant but agile

For some minutes the colossus (he was one of the
Dinosaurs, or Terrible Lizards, and known as a
Diplodocus) remained on all-fours, darting his
sinuous neck inquiringly in all directions, and
snatching here and there a mouthful of the rank,
tender herbage which grew among the trunks of
fern and palm. Apparently the spot was to his
liking. Here was a wide beach, sunlit and ample,
whereon to bask at leisure. There were the warm
and weed-choked shallows wherein to pasture, to
wallow at will, to hide his giant bulk from his
enemies if there should be found any formidable
enough to make hiding advisable. Swarms of
savage insects, to be sure, were giving him a hot
reception — mosquitoes of unimaginable size, and
enormous stinging flies which sought to deposit
their eggs in his smooth hide, but with his giraffe-
like neck he could bite himself where he would, and
the lithe lash of his tail could flick off tormentors
from any corner of his anatomy.

Meanwhile, the excitement off-shore had died
down. The harsh hootings of the bird-lizards had
ceased to rend the air as the dark wings hurtled
away to seek some remoter or less disturbed hunt-
ing-ground. Then across the silence came sud-
denly a terrific crashing of branches, mixed with
gasping cries. Startled, the diplodocus hoisted
himself upon his hind-quarters, till he sat up like
a kangaroo, supported and steadied by the base of
his huge tail. In this position his head, forty feet



above the earth, overlooked the tops of all but the
tallest trees. And what he saw brought the look
of anxiety once more into his round, saucer-eyes.

Hurling itself with desperate, plunging leaps
through the rank growths, and snapping the trunks
of the brittle tree-ferns in its path as if they had
been cauliflowers, came a creature not unlike him-
self, but of less than half the size, and with neck
and tail of only moderate length. This creature
was fleeing in frantic terror from another and much
smaller being, which came leaping after it like a
giant kangaroo. Both were plainly dinosaurs,
with the lizard tail and hind-legs ; but the lesser
of the two, with its square, powerful head and
tiger-fanged jaws, and the tremendous, rending
claws on its short forearms, was plainly of a different
species from the great herb-eaters of the dino-
saurian family. It was one of the smaller members
of that terrible family of carnivorous dinosaurians
which ruled the ancient cycad forests as the black-
maned lion rules the Rhodesian jungles to-day.
The massive iguanodon which fled before it so
madly, though of fully thrice its bulk, had reason
to fear it as the fat cow fears a wolf.

A moment more, and the dreadful chase, with
a noise of raucous groans and pantings, burst
forth into the open, not fifty feet from where the
colossus stood watching. Almost at the watcher's
feet the fugitive was overtaken. With a horrid
leap and a hoot of triumph, the pursuer sprang
upon its neck and bore it to the ground, where it
lay bellowing hoarsely and striking out blunder-



ingly with the massive, horn-tipped spur which
armed its clumsy wrist. The victor tore madly at
its throat with tooth and claw, and presently its
bellowing subsided to a hideous, sobbing gurgle.

The diplodocus, meanwhile, had been looking
down upon the scene with half-bewildered appre-
hension. These creatures were insignificant in size,
to be sure, as compared with his own colossal
stature, but the smaller one had a swift ferocity
which struck terror to his dull heart.

Suddenly a red wrath mounted to his small and
sluggish brain. His tail, as we have seen, was
curled in a half-circle at his side. Now he bent
his body with it. For an instant his whole bulk
quivered with the extraordinary tension. Then,
like a bow released, the bent body sprang back.
The tail (and it weighed at least a ton) struck the
victor and the victim together with an annihilating
shock, and swept them clean around beneath the
visitor's feet.

Down he came upon them at once, with the
crushing effect of a hundred steam pile-drivers ;
and for the next few minutes his panicky rage
expended itself in treading the two bodies into a
shapeless mass. Then he slowly backed off down
into the water where the weedy growths were
thickest, till once more his whole form was con-
cealed except the insignificant head. This he
reared among the swaying tufts of the " mares'
tails," and waited to see what strange thing would
happen next.

He had not long to wait. That hideous, mangled


heap there, sweating blood in the noon sun, seemed
to have some way of making its presence known.
Crashing sounds arose in different parts of the
forest, and presently some half-dozen of the leap-
ing, kangaroo-like flesh-eaters appeared.

They were of varying sizes, from ten or twelve
feet in length to eighteen or twenty, and they eyed
each other with jealous hostility. But one glance
at the weltering heap showed them that here was
feasting abundant for them all. With a chorus of
hoarse cries they came hopping forward and fell
upon it.

Presently two vast shadows came overhead,
hovering a moment, and a pair of the great bird-
lizards dropped upon the middle of the heap.
Hooting savagely, with wings half uplifted, they
struck about them with their terrible beaks till
they had secured room for themselves at the
banquet. Other unbidden guests came leaping
from among the thickets ; and in a short time there
was nothing left of the carcases except two naked
skeletons, dragged apart and half dismembered by
mighty teeth. In the final melee one of the smaller
revellers was himself pounced upon and devoured.

Then, as if by consent of a mutual distrust, the
throng drew quickly apart, each eyeing his neigh-
bour warily, and scattered into the woods. Only
the two grim bird-lizards remained, seeming to
have a sort of understanding or partnership, or
possibly being a mated pair. They pried into the
cartilages and between the joints of the skeletons
with the iron wedges of their beaks, till there was



not another tit-bit to be enjoyed. Then, hooting
once more with satisfaction, they spread their
batlike vanes and flapped darkly off again to their
red watch-tower on the cliff.

When all was once more quiet the giant visitor
fell to pasturing among the crisp and tender water-
weeds. It took a long time to fill his cavernous
paunch by way of that slender neck of his, and when
he was satisfied he went composedly to sleep, his
body perfectly concealed under the water, his head
resting on a little islet of matted reeds in a thicket
of " mares' tails." When he woke up again the
sun was half-way down to the west, and the beach
glowed hotly in the afternoon light. Everything
was drenched in heavy stillness. The visitor made
up his drowsy mind that he must leave his hiding-
place and go and bask in that delicious warmth.

He was just bestirring himself to carry out his
purpose, when once more a swaying in the rank
foliage of the cycads caught his vigilant eye. Dis-
creetly he drew back into hiding, the place being,
as he had found it, so full of violent surprises.

Suddenly there emerged upon the beach a
monster even more extraordinary in appearance
than himself. It was about thirty-five feet in
length, and its ponderous bulk was supported on
legs so short and bowed that it crawled with its
belly almost dragging the ground. Its small head,
which it carried close to the earth, was lizard-like,
shallow-skulled, feeble-looking, and its jaws cleft
back past the stupid eyes. In fact, it was an
inoffensive-looking head for such an imposing



body. At the base of the head began a system of
defensive armour that looked as if it might be proof
against artillery. Up over the shoulders, over the
mighty arch of the back, and down over the
haunches as far as the middle of the ponderous
tail, ran a series of immense flat plates of horn, with
pointed tips and sharpened edges. The largest of
these plates, those that covered the centre of the
back, were each three feet in height, and almost of
an equal breadth. Where the diminished plates
came to an end at the middle of the tail, their place
was taken by eight immense, needle-pointed spines,
set in pairs, of which the chief pair had a length of
over two feet. The monster's hide was set thick
with scales and knobs of horn, brilliantly coloured
in black, yellow, and green, that his grotesque
bulk might be less noticeable to his foes among the
sharp shadows and patchy lights of the fern jungles
where he fed.

The sluggish giant moved nervously, glancing
backwards as he came, and seemed intent upon
reaching the water. In a few moments his anxiety
was explained. Leaping in splendid bounds along
his broad trail came two of those same ferocious
flesh-eaters whom the great watcher among the
reeds so disliked. They ranged up one on each
side of the Stegosaur, who had halted at their
approach, stiffened himself, and drawn his head so
far back into the loose skin of his neck that only
the sharp, chopping beak projected from under the
first armour-plate. One of the pair threatened him
from the front, as if to engross his attention, while



the other pounced upon one of his massive, bowed
hind-legs, as if seeking to drag it from beneath
him and roll him over on his side.

But at this instant there was a clattering of the
plated hide, and that armed tail lashed out with
lightning swiftness, like a porcupine's. There was
a tearing screech from the rash flesh-eater, and he
was plucked back sidewise, all four feet in air,
deeply impaled on three of those gigantic spines.
While he clawed and writhed, struggling to twist
himself free, his companion sprang hardily to the
rescue. She hurled herself with all her weight and
strength full upon the stegosaur's now unprotected
flank. So tremendous was the impact that, with
a frightened grunt, he was rolled clean over on his
side. But at the same time his sturdy fore-arms
clutched his assailant, and so crushed, mauled and
tore her that she was glad to wrench herself away.

Coughing and gasping, she bounded backwards
out of reach ; and then she saw that her mate,
having wriggled off the spines, was dragging himself
up the beach toward the forest, leaving a trail of
blood behind him. She followed sullenly, having
had more than enough of the venture. The
triumphant stegosaur rolled himself heavily back
upon his feet, grunted angrily, clattered his
armoured plates, jerked his terrible tail from side
to side as if to see that it was still in working order,
and went lumbering off to another portion of the
wood, having apparently forgotten his purpose of
taking to the water. As he went, one of the grim
bird-lizards from the cliff swooped down and



hovered, hooting, over his path, apparently dis-
appointed at his triumph.

The watcher in the reeds, on the other hand,
was encouraged by the result of the combat. He
began to feel a certain dangerous contempt for
those leaping flesh-eaters, in spite of their swiftness
and ferocity. He himself, though but an eater of
weeds, had trodden one into nothingness, and now
he had seen two together overthrown and put to
flight. With growing confidence he came forth
from his hiding, stalked up the beach, coiled his
interminable tail beside him, and lay down to
bask his dripping sides in the full blaze of the

The colossus was at last beginning to feel at
home in his new surroundings. In spite of the
fact that this bit of open beach, overlooked by the
deep green belt of jungle and the rampart of red
cliffs, appeared to be a sort of arena for titanic
combats, he began to have confidence in his own
astounding bulk as a defence against all foes.
What matter his slim neck, small head and feeble
teeth, when that awful engine of his tail could
sweep his enemies off their feet, and he could crush
them by falling upon them like a mountain ! A
pair of the great bird-lizards flapped over him,
hooting malignantly and staring down upon him
with their immense, cold eyes, but he hardly took
the trouble to look up at them,

Warmed and well fed, his eyes half-sheathed in
their membraneous lids, he gazed out vacantly
across the waving herbage of the shallows, across



the slow, pale tides whose surface boiled from time
to time above the rush of some unseen giant of a
shark or ichthyosaur.

In the heavy heat of the afternoon the young
world had become very still. The bird-lizards, all
folded in their wings, sat stiff and motionless along
the ramparts of red cliff. The only sounds were
the hiss of those seething rushes far out on the
tide, the sudden droning hum of some great insect
darting overhead, or the occasional soft clatter of
the long, crisp cycad leaves as a faint puff of hot
air lifted them.

At the back of the beach, where the tree-ferns
and the calamaries grew rankest, the foliage parted
noiselessly at a height of perhaps twenty feet
from the ground, and a dreadful head looked forth.
Its jaws were both long and massive, and armed
with immense, curved teeth like scimitars. Its
glaring eyes were overhung by eaves of bony plate,
and from the front of its broad snout rose a single
horn, long and sharp. For some minutes this
hideous apparition eyed the unconscious colossus
by the waterside. Then it came forth from the
foliage and crept noiselessly down the beach.

Except for its horned snout and armoured eyes,
this monster was not unlike in general type to
those other predatory dinosaurs which had already
appeared upon the scene. But it was far larger,
approaching thirty-five feet in length, and more
powerfully built in proportion to its size ; and the
armoury of its jaws was more appalling. With a
stealthy but clumsy-looking waddle, which was



nevertheless soundless as a shadow, and his huge
tail curled upwards that it might not drag and
rattle the stones, he crept down until he was
within some fifty feet or more of the drowsing

Some premonition of peril, at this moment, began
to stir in the heavy brain of the colossus, and he
lifted his head apprehensively. In the same
instant the horned giant gathered himself, and
hurled himself forward. In two prodigious leaps
he covered the distance that separated him from
his intended prey. The coiled tail of the colossus
lashed out irresistibly, but the assailant cleared it
in his spring, fell upon the victim's shoulders, and
buried his fangs in the base of that columnar

The colossus, for the first time, was overwhelmed
with terror. He gave vent to a shrill, bleating
bellow — an absurdly inadequate utterance to issue
from this mountainous frame — writhed his neck
in snaky folds, and lashed out convulsively with
the stupendous coils of his tail. But he could not
loosen that deep grip, or the clutch of those iron

In spite of the many tons weight throttling his
neck, he reared himself aloft, and strove to throw
himself over upon his assailant. But the marauder
was agile, and eluded the crushing fall without
loosing his grip. Then, bleating frightfully, till
the sounds re-echoed from the red cliffs and set
all the drowsing bird-lizards lifting their wings,
he plunged down into the tide and bore his dreadful



adversary out of sight beneath a smother of ensan-
guined foam.

Now, the horned giant was himself a powerful
swimmer and quite at home in the water, but in this
respect he was no match for his quarry. Refusing
to relinquish his hold, he was borne out into deep
water ; and there the colossus, becoming all at
once agile and swift, succeeded in rolling over upon
him. Forced thus to loose his grip, he gave one
long, ripping lunge with his horn, deep into the
victim's flank, and then writhed himself from under.
The breath quite crushed out of him, he was forced
to rise to the surface for air. There he rested,
recovering his self-possession, reluctant to give up
the combat, but even more reluctant to expose

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryCharles George Douglas RobertsIn the morning of time → online text (page 1 of 20)