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The Strength of the Strong   By: (1876-1916)

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Transcribed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

The Strength of the Strong

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The Strength of the Strong South of the Slot The Unparalleled Invasion The Enemy of All the World The Dream of Debs The Sea Farmer Samuel

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 up.

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.

"Old Boo oogh was very strong. It was said he could pull a grown man's head right off. I never heard of him doing it, because no man would give him a chance. Father wouldn't. One day, when father was down on the beach, Boo oogh took after mother. She couldn't run fast, for the day before she had got her leg clawed by a bear when she was up on the mountain gathering berries. So Boo oogh caught her and carried her up into his tree. Father never got her back. He was afraid. Old Boo oogh made faces at him.

"But father did not mind. Strong Arm was another strong man. He was one of the best fishermen. But one day, climbing after sea gull eggs, he had a fall from the cliff. He was never strong after that. He coughed a great deal, and his shoulders drew near to each other. So father took Strong Arm's wife. When he came around and coughed under our tree, father laughed at him and threw rocks at him... Continue reading book >>




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