The Makers Of Fire
The cub came upon it suddenly. It was his own fault. He had been careless. He had left
the cave and run down to the stream to drink. It might have been that he took no notice
because he was heavy with sleep. (He had been out all night on the meat-trail, and had
but just then awakened.) And his carelessness might have been due to the familiarity of
the trail to the pool. He had travelled it often, and nothing had ever happened on it.
He went down past the blasted pine, crossed the open space, and trotted in amongst the
trees. Then, at the same instant, he saw and smelt. Before him, sitting silently on their
haunches, were five live things, the like of which he had never seen before. It was his
first glimpse of mankind. But at the sight of him the five men did not spring to their feet,
nor show their teeth, nor snarl. They did not move, but sat there, silent and ominous.
Nor did the cub move. Every instinct of his nature would have impelled him to dash
wildly away, had there not suddenly and for the first time arisen in him another and
counter instinct. A great awe descended upon him. He was beaten down to movelessness
by an overwhelming sense of his own weakness and littleness. Here was mastery and
power, something far and away beyond him.
The cub had never seen man, yet the instinct concerning man was his. In dim ways he
recognised in man the animal that had fought itself to primacy over the other animals of
the Wild. Not alone out of his own eyes, but out of the eyes of all his ancestors was the
cub now looking upon man - out of eyes that had circled in the darkness around countless
winter camp-fires, that had peered from safe distances and from the hearts of thickets at
the strange, two-legged animal that was lord over living things. The spell of the cub's
heritage was upon him, the fear and the respect born of the centuries of struggle and the
accumulated experience of the generations. The heritage was too compelling for a wolf
that was only a cub. Had he been full-grown, he would have run away. As it was, he
cowered down in a paralysis of fear, already half proffering the submission that his kind
had proffered from the first time a wolf came in to sit by man's fire and be made warm.
One of the Indians arose and walked over to him and stooped above him. The cub
cowered closer to the ground. It was the unknown, objectified at last, in concrete flesh
and blood, bending over him and reaching down to seize hold of him. His hair bristled
involuntarily; his lips writhed back and his little fangs were bared. The hand, poised like
doom above him, hesitated, and the man spoke laughing, "WABAM WABISCA IP PIT
TAH." ("Look! The white fangs!")
The other Indians laughed loudly, and urged the man on to pick up the cub. As the hand
descended closer and closer, there raged within the cub a battle of the instincts. He
experienced two great impulsions - to yield and to fight. The resulting action was a
compromise. He did both. He yielded till the hand almost touched him. Then he fought,
his teeth flashing in a snap that sank them into the hand. The next moment he received a
clout alongside the head that knocked him over on his side. Then all fight fled out of him.