Now, all the cartridges you can gather.
Fill up your pockets.
Now, some food.
Half a dozen tins will do.
That's all right!
Don't wait to talk or think.
Get a move on, or we are done!"
Still half-awake, and unable to imagine what it all might mean, I found myself hurrying madly after him through the wood, a rifle under each arm and a pile of various stores in my hands.
He dodged in and out through the thickest of the scrub until he came to a dense clump of brush-wood.
Into this he rushed, regardless of thorns, and threw himself into the heart of it, pulling me down by his side.
"There!" he panted.
"I think we are safe here.
They'll make for the camp as sure as fate. It will be their first idea. But this should puzzle 'em."
"What is it all?" I asked, when I had got my breath.
"Where are the professors?
And who is it that is after us?"
"The ape-men," he cried.
"My God, what brutes!
Don't raise your voice, for they have long ears—sharp eyes, too, but no power of scent, so far as I could judge, so I don't think they can sniff us out.
Where have you been, young fellah?
You were well out of it."
In a few sentences I whispered what I had done.
"Pretty bad," said he, when he had heard of the dinosaur and the pit.
"It isn't quite the place for a rest cure.
What? But I had no idea what its possibilities were until those devils got hold of us.
The man-eatin' Papuans had me once, but they are Chesterfields compared to this crowd."
"How did it happen?" I asked.
"It was in the early mornin'.
Our learned friends were just stirrin'. Hadn't even begun to argue yet.
Suddenly it rained apes.
They came down as thick as apples out of a tree.
They had been assemblin' in the dark, I suppose, until that great tree over our heads was heavy with them.
I shot one of them through the belly, but before we knew where we were they had us spread-eagled on our backs.
I call them apes, but they carried sticks and stones in their hands and jabbered talk to each other, and ended up by tyin' our hands with creepers, so they are ahead of any beast that I have seen in my wanderin's.
Ape-men—that's what they are—Missin' Links, and I wish they had stayed missin'.
They carried off their wounded comrade—he was bleedin' like a pig—and then they sat around us, and if ever I saw frozen murder it was in their faces.
They were big fellows, as big as a man and a deal stronger.
Curious glassy gray eyes they have, under red tufts, and they just sat and gloated and gloated.
Challenger is no chicken, but even he was cowed.
He managed to struggle to his feet, and yelled out at them to have done with it and get it over.
I think he had gone a bit off his head at the suddenness of it, for he raged and cursed at them like a lunatic.
If they had been a row of his favorite Pressmen he could not have slanged them worse."
"Well, what did they do?"
I was enthralled by the strange story which my companion was whispering into my ear, while all the time his keen eyes were shooting in every direction and his hand grasping his cocked rifle.
"I thought it was the end of us, but instead of that it started them on a new line.
They all jabbered and chattered together.
Then one of them stood out beside Challenger.
You'll smile, young fellah, but 'pon my word they might have been kinsmen.
I couldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
This old ape-man—he was their chief—was a sort of red Challenger, with every one of our friend's beauty points, only just a trifle more so.