The Strength of the Strong (2023)

by Jack London

"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 raggedbearskin failed to cover him. Crouched around him, on their hams,were three young men, his grandsons, Deer-Runner, Yellow-Head, andAfraid-of-the-Dark. In appearance they were much the same. Skinsof wild animals partly covered them. They were lean and meagre ofbuild, narrow-hipped and crooked-legged, and at the same time deep-chested, with heavy arms and enormous hands. There was much hairon their chests and shoulders, and on the outsides of their armsand legs. Their heads were matted with uncut hair, long locks ofwhich often strayed before their eyes, beady and black andglittering like the eyes of birds. They were narrow between theeyes and broad between the cheeks, while their lower jaws wereprojecting and massive.

It was a night of clear starlight, and below them, stretching awayremotely, lay range on range of forest-covered hills. In thedistance the heavens were red from the glow of a volcano. At theirbacks yawned the black mouth of a cave, out of which, from time totime, blew draughty gusts of wind. Immediately in front of themblazed a fire. At one side, partly devoured, lay the carcass of abear, with about it, at a respectable distance, several large dogs,shaggy and wolf-like. Beside each man lay his bow and arrows and ahuge club. In the cave-mouth a number of rude spears leanedagainst 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 aprevious story his words called up. Long-Beard laughed, too, thefive-inch bodkin of bone, thrust midway through the cartilage ofhis nose, leaping and dancing and adding to his ferociousappearance. He did not exactly say the words recorded, but he madeanimal-like sounds with his mouth that meant the same thing.

"And that is the first I remember of the Sea Valley," Long-Beardwent on. "We were a very foolish crowd. We did not know thesecret of strength. For, behold, each family lived by itself, andtook care of itself. There were thirty families, but we got nostrength from one another. We were in fear of each other all thetime. No one ever paid visits. In the top of our tree we built agrass house, and on the platform outside was a pile of rocks, whichwere for the heads of any that might chance to try to visit us.Also, we had our spears and arrows. We never walked under thetrees of the other families, either. My brother did, once, underold Boo-oogh's tree, and he got his head broken and that was theend of him.

"Old Boo-oogh was very strong. It was said he could pull a grownman's head right off. I never heard of him doing it, because noman would give him a chance. Father wouldn't. One day, whenfather was down on the beach, Boo-oogh took after mother. Shecouldn't run fast, for the day before she had got her leg clawed bya bear when she was up on the mountain gathering berries. So Boo-oogh caught her and carried her up into his tree. Father never gother back. He was afraid. Old Boo-oogh made faces at him.

"But father did not mind. Strong-Arm was another strong man. Hewas one of the best fishermen. But one day, climbing after sea-gull eggs, he had a fall from the cliff. He was never strong afterthat. He coughed a great deal, and his shoulders drew near to eachother. So father took Strong-Arm's wife. When he came around andcoughed under our tree, father laughed at him and threw rocks athim. It was our way in those days. We did not know how to addstrength together and become strong."

"Would a brother take a brother's wife?" Deer-Runner demanded.

"Yes, if he had gone to live in another tree by himself."

"But we do not do such things now," Afraid-of-the-Dark objected.

"It is because I have taught your fathers better." Long-Beardthrust his hairy paw into the bear meat and drew out a handful ofsuet, which he sucked with a meditative air. Again he wiped hishands on his naked sides and went on. "What I am telling youhappened in the long ago, before we knew any better."

"You must have been fools not to know better," was Deer-Runner'scomment, Yellow-Head grunting approval.

"So we were, but we became bigger fools, as you shall see. Still,we did learn better, and this was the way of it. We Fish-Eatershad not learned to add our strength until our strength was thestrength of all of us. But the Meat-Eaters, who lived across thedivide in the Big Valley, stood together, hunted together, fishedtogether, and fought together. One day they came into our valley.Each family of us got into its own cave and tree. There were onlyten Meat-Eaters, but they fought together, and we fought, eachfamily by itself."

Long-Beard counted long and perplexedly on his fingers.

"There were sixty men of us," was what he managed to say withfingers and lips combined. "And we were very strong, only we didnot know it. So we watched the ten men attack Boo-oogh's tree. Hemade a good fight, but he had no chance. We looked on. When someof the Meat-Eaters tried to climb the tree, Boo-oogh had to showhimself in order to drop stones on their heads, whereupon the otherMeat-Eaters, who were waiting for that very thing, shot him full ofarrows. And that was the end of Boo-oogh.

"Next, the Meat-Eaters got One-Eye and his family in his cave.They built a fire in the mouth and smoked him out, like we smokedout the bear there to-day. Then they went after Six-Fingers, uphis tree, and, while they were killing him and his grown son, therest of us ran away. They caught some of our women, and killed twoold men who could not run fast and several children. The womenthey carried away with them to the Big Valley.

"After that the rest of us crept back, and, somehow, perhapsbecause we were in fear and felt the need for one another, wetalked the thing over. It was our first council - our first realcouncil. And in that council we formed our first tribe. For wehad learned the lesson. Of the ten Meat-Eaters, each man had hadthe strength of ten, for the ten had fought as one man. They hadadded their strength together. But of the thirty families and thesixty men of us, we had had the strength of but one man, for eachhad fought alone.

"It was a great talk we had, and it was hard talk, for we did nothave the words then as now with which to talk. The Bug made someof the words long afterward, and so did others of us make wordsfrom time to time. But in the end we agreed to add our strengthtogether and to be as one man when the Meat-Eaters came over thedivide to steal our women. And that was the tribe.

"We set two men on the divide, one for the day and one for thenight, to watch if the Meat-Eaters came. These were the eyes ofthe tribe. Then, also, day and night, there were to be ten menawake with their clubs and spears and arrows in their hands, readyto fight. Before, when a man went after fish, or clams, or gull-eggs, he carried his weapons with him, and half the time he wasgetting food and half the time watching for fear some other manwould get him. Now that was all changed. The men went out withouttheir weapons and spent all their time getting food. Likewise,when the women went into the mountains after roots and berries,five of the ten men went with them to guard them. While all thetime, day and night, the eyes of the tribe watched from the top ofthe divide.

"But troubles came. As usual, it was about the women. Men withoutwives wanted other men's wives, and there was much fighting betweenmen, and now and again one got his head smashed or a spear throughhis body. While one of the watchers was on top of the divide,another man stole his wife, and he came down to fight. Then theother watcher was in fear that some one would take his wife, and hecame down likewise. Also, there was trouble among the ten men whocarried always their weapons, and they fought five against five,till some ran away down the coast and the others ran after them.

"So it was that the tribe was left without eyes or guards. We hadnot the strength of sixty. We had no strength at all. So we helda council and made our first laws. I was but a cub at the time,but I remember. We said that, in order to be strong, we must notfight one another, and we made a law that when a man killed anotherhim would the tribe kill. We made another law that whoso stoleanother man's wife him would the tribe kill. We said that whateverman had too great strength, and by that strength hurt his brothersin the tribe, him would we kill that his strength might hurt nomore. For, if we let his strength hurt, the brothers would becomeafraid and the tribe would fall apart, and we would be as weak aswhen the Meat-Eaters first came upon us and killed Boo-oogh.

"Knuckle-Bone was a strong man, a very strong man, and he knew notlaw. He knew only his own strength, and in the fullness thereof hewent forth and took the wife of Three-Clams. Three-Clams tried tofight, but Knuckle-Bone clubbed out his brains. Yet had Knuckle-Bone forgotten that all the men of us had added our strength tokeep the law among us, and him we killed, at the foot of his tree,and hung his body on a branch as a warning that the law wasstronger than any man. For we were the law, all of us, and no manwas greater than the law.

"Then there were other troubles, for know, O Deer-Runner, andYellow-Head, and Afraid-of-the-Dark, that it is not easy to make atribe. There were many things, little things, that it was a greattrouble to call all the men together to have a council about. Wewere having councils morning, noon, and night, and in the middle ofthe night. We could find little time to go out and get food,because of the councils, for there was always some little thing tobe settled, such as naming two new watchers to take the place ofthe old ones on the hill, or naming how much food should fall tothe share of the men who kept their weapons always in their handsand got no food for themselves.

"We stood in need of a chief man to do these things, who would bethe voice of the council, and who would account to the council forthe things he did. So we named Fith-Fith the chief man. He was astrong man, too, and very cunning, and when he was angry he madenoises just like that, FITH-FITH, like a wild-cat.

"The ten men who guarded the tribe were set to work making a wallof stones across the narrow part of the valley. The women andlarge children helped, as did other men, until the wall was strong.After that, all the families came down out of their caves and treesand built grass houses behind the shelter of the wall. Thesehouses were large and much better than the caves and trees, andeverybody had a better time of it because the men had added theirstrength together and become a tribe. Because of the wall and theguards and the watchers, there was more time to hunt and fish andpick roots and berries; there was more food, and better food, andno one went hungry. And Three-Legs, so named because his legs hadbeen smashed when a boy and who walked with a stick - Three-Legsgot the seed of the wild corn and planted it in the ground in thevalley near his house. Also, he tried planting fat roots and otherthings he found in the mountain valleys.

"Because of the safety in the Sea Valley, which was because of thewall and the watchers and the guards, and because there was food inplenty for all without having to fight for it, many families camein from the coast valleys on both sides and from the high backmountains where they had lived more like wild animals than men.And it was not long before the Sea Valley filled up, and in it werecountless families. But, before this happened, the land, which hadbeen free to all and belonged to all, was divided up. Three-Legsbegan it when he planted corn. But most of us did not care aboutthe land. We thought the marking of the boundaries with fences ofstone was a foolishness. We had plenty to eat, and what more didwe want? I remember that my father and I built stone fences forThree-Legs and were given corn in return.

"So only a few got all the land, and Three-Legs got most of it.Also, others that had taken land gave it to the few that held on,being paid in return with corn and fat roots, and bear-skins, andfishes which the farmers got from the fishermen in exchange forcorn. And, the first thing we knew, all the land was gone.

"It was about this time that Fith-Fith died and Dog-Tooth, his son,was made chief. He demanded to be made chief anyway, because hisfather had been chief before him. Also, he looked upon himself asa greater chief than his father. He was a good chief at first, andworked hard, so that the council had less and less to do. Thenarose a new voice in the Sea Valley. It was Twisted-Lip. We hadnever thought much of him, until he began to talk with the spiritsof the dead. Later we called him Big-Fat, because he ate over-much, and did no work, and grew round and large. One day Big-Fattold us that the secrets of the dead were his, and that he was thevoice of God. He became great friends with Dog-Tooth, whocommanded that we should build Big-Fat a grass house. And Big-Fatput taboos all around this house and kept God inside.

"More and more Dog-Tooth became greater than the council, and whenthe council grumbled and said it would name a new chief, Big-Fatspoke with the voice of God and said no. Also, Three-Legs and theothers who held the land stood behind Dog-Tooth. Moreover, thestrongest man in the council was Sea-Lion, and him the land-ownersgave land to secretly, along with many bearskins and baskets ofcorn. So Sea-Lion said that Big-Fat's voice was truly the voice ofGod and must be obeyed. And soon afterward Sea-Lion was named thevoice of Dog-Tooth and did most of his talking for him.

"Then there was Little-Belly, a little man, so thin in the middlethat he looked as if he had never had enough to eat. Inside themouth of the river, after the sand-bar had combed the strength ofthe breakers, he built a big fish-trap. No man had ever seen ordreamed a fish-trap before. He worked weeks on it, with his sonand his wife, while the rest of us laughed at their labours. But,when it was done, the first day he caught more fish in it thancould the whole tribe in a week, whereat there was great rejoicing.There was only one other place in the river for a fish-trap, but,when my father and I and a dozen other men started to make a verylarge trap, the guards came from the big grass-house we had builtfor Dog-Tooth. And the guards poked us with their spears and toldus begone, because Little-Belly was going to build a trap therehimself on the word of Sea-Lion, who was the voice of Dog-Tooth.

"There was much grumbling, and my father called a council. But,when he rose to speak, him the Sea-Lion thrust through the throatwith a spear and he died. And Dog-Tooth and Little-Belly, andThree-Legs and all that held land said it was good. And Big-Fatsaid it was the will of God. And after that all men were afraid tostand up in the council, and there was no more council.

"Another man, Pig-Jaw, began to keep goats. He had heard about itas among the Meat-Eaters, and it was not long before he had manyflocks. Other men, who had no land and no fish-traps, and who elsewould have gone hungry, were glad to work for Pig-Jaw, caring forhis goats, guarding them from wild dogs and tigers, and drivingthem to the feeding pastures in the mountains. In return, Pig-Jawgave them goat-meat to eat and goat-skins to wear, and sometimesthey traded the goat-meat for fish and corn and fat roots.

"It was this time that money came to be. Sea-Lion was the man whofirst thought of it, and he talked it over with Dog-Tooth and Big-Fat. You see, these three were the ones that got a share ofeverything in the Sea Valley. One basket out of every three ofcorn was theirs, one fish out of every three, one goat out of everythree. In return, they fed the guards and the watchers, and keptthe rest for themselves. Sometimes, when a big haul of fish wasmade they did not know what to do with all their share. So Sea-Lion set the women to making money out of shell - little roundpieces, with a hole in each one, and all made smooth and fine.These were strung on strings, and the strings were called money.

"Each string was of the value of thirty fish, or forty fish, butthe women, who made a string a day, were given two fish each. Thefish came out of the shares of Dog-Tooth, Big-Fat, and Sea-Lion,which they three did not eat. So all the money belonged to them.Then they told Three-Legs and the other land-owners that they wouldtake their share of corn and roots in money, Little-Belly that theywould take their share of fish in money, Pig-Jaw that they wouldtake their share of goats and cheese in money. Thus, a man who hadnothing, worked for one who had, and was paid in money. With thismoney he bought corn, and fish, and meat, and cheese. And Three-Legs and all owners of things paid Dog-Tooth and Sea-Lion and Big-Fat their share in money. And they paid the guards and watchers inmoney, and the guards and watchers bought their food with themoney. And, because money was cheap, Dog-Tooth made many more meninto guards. And, because money was cheap to make, a number of menbegan to make money out of shell themselves. But the guards stuckspears in them and shot them full of arrows, because they weretrying to break up the tribe. It was bad to break up the tribe,for then the Meat-Eaters would come over the divide and kill themall.

"Big-Fat was the voice of God, but he took Broken-Rib and made himinto a priest, so that he became the voice of Big-Fat and did mostof his talking for him. And both had other men to be servants tothem. So, also, did Little-Belly and Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw haveother men to lie in the sun about their grass houses and carrymessages for them and give commands. And more and more were mentaken away from work, so that those that were left worked harderthan ever before. It seemed that men desired to do no work andstrove to seek out other ways whereby men should work for them.Crooked-Eyes found such a way. He made the first fire-brew out ofcorn. And thereafter he worked no more, for he talked secretlywith Dog-Tooth and Big-Fat and the other masters, and it was agreedthat he should be the only one to make fire-brew. But Crooked-Eyesdid no work himself. Men made the brew for him, and he paid themin money. Then he sold the fire-brew for money, and all menbought. And many strings of money did he give Dog-Tooth and Sea-Lion and all of them.

"Big-Fat and Broken-Rib stood by Dog-Tooth when he took his secondwife, and his third wife. They said Dog-Tooth was different fromother men and second only to God that Big-Fat kept in his taboohouse, and Dog-Tooth said so, too, and wanted to know who were theyto grumble about how many wives he took. Dog-Tooth had a big canoemade, and, many more men he took from work, who did nothing and layin the sun, save only when Dog-Tooth went in the canoe, when theypaddled for him. And he made Tiger-Face head man over all theguards, so that Tiger-Face became his right arm, and when he didnot like a man Tiger-Face killed that man for him. And Tiger-Face,also, made another man to be his right arm, and to give commands,and to kill for him.

"But this was the strange thing: as the days went by we who wereleft worked harder and harder, and yet did we get less and less toeat."

"But what of the goats and the corn and the fat roots and the fish-trap?" spoke up Afraid-of-the-Dark, "what of all this? Was therenot more food to be gained by man's work?"

"It is so," Long-Beard agreed. "Three men on the fish-trap gotmore fish than the whole tribe before there was a fish-trap. Buthave I not said we were fools? The more food we were able to get,the less food did we have to eat."

"But was it not plain that the many men who did not work ate it allup?" Yellow-Head demanded.

Long-Beard nodded his head sadly.

"Dog-Tooth's dogs were stuffed with meat, and the men who lay inthe sun and did no work were rolling in fat, and, at the same time,there were little children crying themselves to sleep with hungerbiting them with every wail."

Deer-Runner was spurred by the recital of famine to tear out achunk of bear-meat and broil it on a stick over the coals. This hedevoured with smacking lips, while Long-Beard went on:

"When we grumbled Big-Fat arose, and with the voice of God saidthat God had chosen the wise men to own the land and the goats andthe fish-trap, and the fire-brew, and that without these wise menwe would all be animals, as in the days when we lived in trees.

"And there arose one who became a singer of songs for the king.Him they called the Bug, because he was small and ungainly of faceand limb and excelled not in work or deed. He loved the fattestmarrow bones, the choicest fish, the milk warm from the goats, thefirst corn that was ripe, and the snug place by the fire. Andthus, becoming singer of songs to the king, he found a way to donothing and be fat. And when the people grumbled more and more,and some threw stones at the king's grass house, the Bug sang asong of how good it was to be a Fish-Eater. In his song he toldthat the Fish-Eaters were the chosen of God and the finest men Godhad made. He sang of the Meat-Eaters as pigs and crows, and sanghow fine and good it was for the Fish-Eaters to fight and die doingGod's work, which was the killing of Meat-Eaters. The words of hissong were like fire in us, and we clamoured to be led against theMeat-Eaters. And we forgot that we were hungry, and why we hadgrumbled, and were glad to be led by Tiger-Face over the divide,where we killed many Meat-Eaters and were content.

"But things were no better in the Sea Valley. The only way to getfood was to work for Three-Legs or Little-Belly or Pig-Jaw; forthere was no land that a man might plant with corn for himself.And often there were more men than Three-Legs and the others hadwork for. So these men went hungry, and so did their wives andchildren and their old mothers. Tiger-Face said they could becomeguards if they wanted to, and many of them did, and thereafter theydid no work except to poke spears in the men who did work and whogrumbled at feeding so many idlers.

"And when we grumbled, ever the Bug sang new songs. He said thatThree-Legs and Pig-Jaw and the rest were strong men, and that thatwas why they had so much. He said that we should be glad to havestrong men with us, else would we perish of our own worthlessnessand the Meat-Eaters. Therefore, we should be glad to let suchstrong men have all they could lay hands on. And Big-Fat and Pig-Jaw and Tiger-Face and all the rest said it was true.

"'All right,' said Long-Fang, 'then will I, too, be a strong man.'And he got himself corn, and began to make fire-brew and sell itfor strings of money. And, when Crooked-Eyes complained, Long-Fangsaid that he was himself a strong man, and that if Crooked-Eyesmade any more noise he would bash his brains out for him. WhereatCrooked-Eyes was afraid and went and talked with Three-Legs andPig-Jaw. And all three went and talked to Dog-Tooth. And Dog-Tooth spoke to Sea-Lion, and Sea-Lion sent a runner with a messageto Tiger-Face. And Tiger-Face sent his guards, who burned Long-Fang's house along with the fire-brew he had made. Also, theykilled him and all his family. And Big-Fat said it was good, andthe Bug sang another song about how good it was to observe the law,and what a fine land the Sea Valley was, and how every man wholoved the Sea Valley should go forth and kill the bad Meat-Eaters.And again his song was as fire to us, and we forgot to grumble.

"It was very strange. When Little-Belly caught too many fish, sothat it took a great many to sell for a little money, he threw manyof the fish back into the sea, so that more money would be paid forwhat was left. And Three-Legs often let many large fields lie idleso as to get more money for his corn. And the women, making somuch money out of shell that much money was needed to buy with,Dog-Tooth stopped the making of money. And the women had no work,so they took the places of the men. I worked on the fish-trap,getting a string of money every five days. But my sister now didmy work, getting a string of money for every ten days. The womenworked cheaper, and there was less food, and Tiger-Face said weshould become guards. Only I could not become a guard because Iwas lame of one leg and Tiger-Face would not have me. And therewere many like me. We were broken men and only fit to beg for workor to take care of the babies while the women worked."

Yellow-Head, too, was made hungry by the recital and broiled apiece of bear-meat on the coals.

"But why didn't you rise up, all of you, and kill Three-Legs andPig-Jaw and Big-Fat and the rest and get enough to eat?" Afraid-in-the-Dark demanded.

"Because we could not understand," Long-Beard answered. "There wastoo much to think about, and, also, there were the guards stickingspears into us, and Big-Fat talking about God, and the Bug singingnew songs. And when any man did think right, and said so, Tiger-Face and the guards got him, and he was tied out to the rocks atlow tide so that the rising waters drowned him.

"It was a strange thing - the money. It was like the Bug's songs.It seemed all right, but it wasn't, and we were slow to understand.Dog-Tooth began to gather the money in. He put it in a big pile,in a grass house, with guards to watch it day and night. And themore money he piled in the house the dearer money became, so that aman worked a longer time for a string of money than before. Then,too, there was always talk of war with the Meat-Eaters, and Dog-Tooth and Tiger-Face filled many houses with corn, and dried fish,and smoked goat-meat, and cheese. And with the food, piled therein mountains the people had not enough to eat. But what did itmatter? Whenever the people grumbled too loudly the Bug sang a newsong, and Big-Fat said it was God's word that we should kill Meat-Eaters, and Tiger-Face led us over the divide to kill and bekilled. I was not good enough to be a guard and lie fat in thesun, but, when we made war, Tiger-Face was glad to take me along.And when we had eaten, all the food stored in the houses we stoppedfighting and went back to work to pile up more food."

"Then were you all crazy," commented Deer-Runner.

"Then were we indeed all crazy," Long-Beard agreed. "It wasstrange, all of it. There was Split-Nose. He said everything waswrong. He said it was true that we grew strong by adding ourstrength together. And he said that, when we first formed thetribe, it was right that the men whose strength hurt the tribeshould be shorn of their strength - men who bashed their brothers'heads and stole their brothers' wives. And now, he said, the tribewas not getting stronger, but was getting weaker, because therewere men with another kind of strength that were hurting the tribe- men who had the strength of the land, like Three-Legs; who hadthe strength of the fish-trap, like Little-Belly; who had thestrength of all the goat-meat, like Pig-Jaw. The thing to do,Split-Nose said, was to shear these men of their evil strength; tomake them go to work, all of them, and to let no man eat who didnot work.

"And the Bug sang another song about men like Split-Nose, whowanted to go back, and live in trees.

"Yet Split-Nose said no; that he did not want to go back, butahead; that they grew strong only as they added their strengthtogether; and that, if the Fish-Eaters would add their strength tothe Meat-Eaters, there would be no more fighting and no morewatchers and no more guards, and that, with all men working, therewould be so much food that each man would have to work not morethan two hours a day.

"Then the Bug sang again, and he sang that Split-Nose was lazy, andhe sang also the 'Song of the Bees.' It was a strange song, andthose who listened were made mad, as from the drinking of strongfire-brew. The song was of a swarm of bees, and of a robber waspwho had come in to live with the bees and who was stealing alltheir honey. The wasp was lazy and told them there was no need towork; also, he told them to make friends with the bears, who werenot honey-stealers but only very good friends. And the Bug sang incrooked words, so that those who listened knew that the swarm wasthe Sea Valley tribe, that the bears were the Meat-Eaters, and thatthe lazy wasp was Split-Nose. And when the Bug sang that the beeslistened to the wasp till the swarm was near to perishing, thepeople growled and snarled, and when the Bug sang that at last thegood bees arose and stung the wasp to death, the people picked upstones from the ground and stoned Split-Nose to death till therewas naught to be seen of him but the heap of stones they had flungon top of him. And there were many poor people who worked long andhard and had not enough to eat that helped throw the stones onSplit-Nose.

"And, after the death of Split-Nose, there was but one other manthat dared rise up and speak his mind, and that man was Hair-Face.'Where is the strength of the strong?' he asked. 'We are thestrong, all of us, and we are stronger than Dog-Tooth and Tiger-Face and Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw and all the rest who do nothing andeat much and weaken us by the hurt of their strength which is badstrength. Men who are slaves are not strong. If the man who firstfound the virtue and use of fire had used his strength we wouldhave been his slaves, as we are the slaves to-day of Little-Belly,who found the virtue and use of the fish-trap; and of the men whofound the virtue and use of the land, and the goats, and the fire-brew. Before, we lived in trees, my brothers, and no man was safe.But we fight no more with one another. We have added our strengthtogether. Then let us fight no more with the Meat-Eaters. Let usadd our strength and their strength together. Then will we beindeed strong. And then we will go out together, the Fish-Eatersand the Meat-Eaters, and we will kill the tigers and the lions andthe wolves and the wild dogs, and we will pasture our goats on allthe hill-sides and plant our corn and fat roots in all the highmountain valleys. In that day we will be so strong that all thewild animals will flee before us and perish. And nothing willwithstand us, for the strength of each man will be the strength ofall men in the world.'

"So said Hair-Face, and they killed him, because, they said, he wasa wild man and wanted to go back and live in a tree. It was verystrange. Whenever a man arose and wanted to go forward all thosethat stood still said he went backward and should be killed. Andthe poor people helped stone him, and were fools. We were allfools, except those who were fat and did no work. The fools werecalled wise, and the wise were stoned. Men who worked did not getenough to eat, and the men who did not work ate too much.

"And the tribe went on losing strength. The children were weak andsickly. And, because we ate not enough, strange sicknesses cameamong us and we died like flies. And then the Meat-Eaters cameupon us. We had followed Tiger-Face too often over the divide andkilled them. And now they came to repay in blood. We were tooweak and sick to man the big wall. And they killed us, all of us,except some of the women, which they took away with them. The Bugand I escaped, and I hid in the wildest places, and became a hunterof meat and went hungry no more. I stole a wife from the Meat-Eaters, and went to live in the caves of the high mountains wherethey could not find me. And we had three sons, and each son stolea wife from the Meat-Eaters. And the rest you know, for are younot the sons of my sons?"

"But the Bug?" queried Deer-Runner. "What became of him?"

"He went to live with the Meat-Eaters and to be a singer of songsto the king. He is an old man now, but he sings the same oldsongs; and, when a man rises up to go forward, he sings that thatman is walking backward to live in a tree."

Long-Beard dipped into the bear-carcass and sucked with toothlessgums at a fist of suet.

"Some day," he said, wiping his hands on his sides, "all the foolswill be dead and then all live men will go forward. The strengthof the strong will be theirs, and they will add their strengthtogether, so that, of all the men in the world, not one will fightwith another. There will be no guards nor watchers on the walls.And all the hunting animals will be killed, and, as Hair-Face said,all the hill-sides will be pastured with goats and all the highmountain valleys will be planted with corn and fat roots. And allmen will be brothers, and no man will lie idle in the sun and befed by his fellows. And all that will come to pass in the timewhen the fools are dead, and when there will be no more singers tostand still and sing the 'Song of the Bees.' Bees are not men."


The Strength of the Strong (4)

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