Strength of the Strong and Other Stories HTML version

The Strength Of The Strong
"Parables don't lie, but liars will parable." - Lip-King.
Old Long-Beard paused in his narrative, licked his greasy fingers, and wiped
them on his naked sides where his one piece of ragged bearskin failed to cover
him. Crouched around him, on their hams, were three young men, his grandsons,
Deer-Runner, Yellow-Head, and Afraid-of-the-Dark. In appearance they were
much the same. Skins of wild animals partly covered them. They were lean and
meagre of build, narrow-hipped and crooked-legged, and at the same time deep-
chested, with heavy arms and enormous hands. There was much hair on their
chests and shoulders, and on the outsides of their arms and legs. Their heads
were matted with uncut hair, long locks of which often strayed before their eyes,
beady and black and glittering like the eyes of birds. They were narrow between
the eyes and broad between the cheeks, while their lower jaws were projecting
and massive.
It was a night of clear starlight, and below them, stretching away remotely, lay
range on range of forest-covered hills. In the distance the heavens were red from
the glow of a volcano. At their backs yawned the black mouth of a cave, out of
which, from time to time, blew draughty gusts of wind. Immediately in front of
them blazed a fire. At one side, partly devoured, lay the carcass of a bear, with
about it, at a respectable distance, several large dogs, shaggy and wolf-like.
Beside each man lay his bow and arrows and a huge club. In the cave-mouth a
number of rude spears leaned against the rock.
"So that was how we moved from the cave to the tree," old Long- Beard spoke
They laughed boisterously, like big children, at recollection of a previous story his
words called up. Long-Beard laughed, too, the five-inch bodkin of bone, thrust
midway through the cartilage of his nose, leaping and dancing and adding to his
ferocious appearance. He did not exactly say the words recorded, but he made
animal-like sounds with his mouth that meant the same thing.
"And that is the first I remember of the Sea Valley," Long-Beard went on. "We
were a very foolish crowd. We did not know the secret of strength. For, behold,
each family lived by itself, and took care of itself. There were thirty families, but
we got no strength from one another. We were in fear of each other all the time.
No one ever paid visits. In the top of our tree we built a grass house, and on the
platform outside was a pile of rocks, which were for the heads of any that might
chance to try to visit us. Also, we had our spears and arrows. We never walked
under the trees of the other families, either. My brother did, once, under old Boo-
oogh's tree, and he got his head broken and that was the end of him.