The Eternal Lover

Part II

Chapter XII

Tur’s Deception

Edgar Rice Burroughs

IN THE INSTANT that the beast leaped for him Nu dove forward into the lake. The water was shallow, not over two or three feet deep, but the cave man hugged the bottom, worming his way to the left toward the shadows of the causeway. He knew that the cat would not follow him into the lake—his greatest danger now lay in the unknown denizens of the water. But, though every instant he expected to feel a slimy body or sharp teeth, he met with no attack. At last, his breath spent, he turned upon his back, floating until his nose and mouth rose above the surface. Filling his lungs with air he sank again and continued his way in the direction of the piling. After what seemed an eternity to him his hands came at last in contact with the rough surface of a pile. Immediately he rose to the surface, and to his delight found that he was beneath the causeway, safe from the eyes of the guardsman and his companion.

Upon the bank behind him he could hear the angry complaining of the baffled cat. He wondered if the noise of his escape had alarmed the sentry to greater watchfulness. For long he listened for some sign from above, and at last he caught the low tones of whispered conversation. Good! they were still at their lovemaking, with never a thought for the dangers lying close at hand.

Nu wished that they would be done. He dared not venture aloft while the woman was there. For an hour he waited waist deep in water, until finally he heard her retreating footsteps above him. He gave her time to regain her dwelling, and then with the agility of a cat he clambered up the slippery pile until his fingers closed upon the edge of the flooring of the causeway. Cautiously he drew himself up so that his eyes topped the upper surface of the platform.

A dozen paces from him was the sentry moving slowly shoreward toward the watchfire. The man’s back was toward Nu, and he was already between Nu and the shore. Nothing could have been better.

The cave man crawled quickly to the platform, and with silent feet ran lightly in the wake of the guard. The man was beside the pile of wood with which he kept up the fire and was bending over to gather up an armful when Nu overtook him. With the speed and directness of a killing lion Nu leaped full upon his quarry’s back. Both hands sought the man’s throat to shut off his cries for help, and the teeth of the attacker buried themselves in the muscles behind the collar bone that he might not easily be shaken from his advantageous hold.

The sentry, taken entirely by surprise by this attack from the rear, struggled to turn upon his foe. He tore at the fingers at his throat that he might release them for the little instant that would be sufficient for him to call for help; but the vise-like grip would not loosen. Then the victim groped with his right hand for his knife. Nu had been expecting this, and waiting for it. Instantly his own right hand released its grip upon the other’s throat, and lightning-like followed the dagger hand in quest of the coveted blade, so that Nu’s fingers closed about those of the sentry the instant that the latter gripped the handle of the knife.

Now the blade flew from its sheath drawn by the power of two hands, and then commenced a test of strength that was to decide the outcome of the battle. The Lake Dweller sought to drive the knife backward into the body of the man upon his back. Nu sought to force the knife hand upward and outward. The blade was turned backward. Nu did not attempt to alter this—it was as he would have it. Slowly his mighty muscles prevailed over those of his antagonist, and still his left hand choked off the other’s voice. Upward, slowly but surely, Nu carried the knife hand of his foe. Now it is breast high, now to the other’s shoulder, and all the time the hairy giant is attempting to drive it back into the body of the cave man.

At the instant that it rose level with the sentry’s shoulder Nu pushed the hand gradually toward the left until the blade hovered directly over the heart of its owner. And then, quite suddenly, Nu reversed the direction of his exertions, and like lightning the blade, driven by the combined strength of both men, and guided by Nu, plunged into the heart of the Lake Dweller.

Silently the man crumpled beneath the weight upon him. There was a final struggle, and then he lay still. Nu did not wait longer than to transfer all the coveted weapons from the corpse of his antagonist to his own body, and then, silent and swift as a wraith, he vanished into the darkness toward the forest and the heights above the lake.


Gron, alone in the cave, sat buried in thought. Sometimes she was goaded to despair by recollections of her lost babe, and again she rose to heights of righteous anger at thoughts of the brutality and injustice of Tur. Her fingers twitched to be at the brute’s throat. She compared him time and time again with Nu, and at each comparison she realized more and more fully the intensity of her new found passion for the stranger. She loved this alien warrior with a fierceness that almost hurt. She relived again and again the countless little episodes in which he had shown her a kindness and consideration to which she was not accustomed. Among her own people these things would have seemed a sign of weakness upon the part of a man, but Gron knew that no taint of weakness lay behind that noble exterior.

For long into the night she sat straining her eyes and ears through the darkness for the first intimation of his return. At last, when he had not come, she commenced to feel apprehension. He had gone out unarmed through the savage land to wrest weapons from the enemy. Already he might be dead, yet Gron could not believe that aught could overcome that mighty physique.

Toward morning she became hopeless, and crawling within the cave curled up upon the grasses that Nu had gathered for her, and slept. It was several hours after dawn when she was awakened by a sound from without—it was the scraping of a spear butt against the rocky face of the cliff, as it trailed along in the wake of a climbing man.

As Gron saw who it was that came she gave a little cry of joy, braving the dangers of the perilous declivity to meet him. Nu looked up with a smile, exhibiting his captured weapons as he came. He noted the changed expression upon the woman’s face—a smile of welcome that rendered her countenance quite radiant. He had never before taken the time to appraise Gron’s personal appearance, and now it was with a sense of surprise that was almost a shock that he realized that the woman was both young and good-looking. But this surprise was as nothing by comparison with that which followed, for no sooner had Gron reached him than she threw both arms about his neck, and before he realized her intent had dragged his lips to hers.

Nu disengaged himself with a laugh. He did not love Gron—his heart was wholly Nat-ul’s, and his whole mind now was occupied with plans for returning to his own country where he might continue his search for her who was to have been his mate. Still laughing, and with an arm about Gron to support her up the steep cliff, he turned his steps toward the cave.

“I have brought a little food,” he said, “and after I have slept we will return to the sea. On the way I can hunt, for now I have weapons, but in the meantime I must sleep, for I am exhausted. While I sleep you must watch.”

But once within the cave Gron, carried away by her new found love, renewed her protestations of affection; but even with her arms about him Nu saw only the lovely vision of another face—his Nat-ul. Where was she?


When Nat-ul and Nu, the chief, discovered that the son of Nu no longer was bound to the flame-girt stake in the village of the Boat Builders they turned toward one another in questioning surprise. The man examined the stake more closely.

“It is not burned,” he said, “so, therefore, Nu could not have been burned. And here,” he pointed at the ground about the stake, “look, here are the cords that bound him.”

He picked one of them up, examining it.

“They have been cut! Some one came before us and liberated Nu, the son of Nu.”

“Who could it have been, and whither have they gone?” questioned Nat-ul.

Nu shook his head. “I do not know, and now I may not stop to learn, for my warriors are pursuing the strangers and I must be with them,” and Nu, the chief, leaped across the dying fires after the yelling spearmen who chased the enemy toward the sea.

But Nat-ul was determined to let nothing stay her search for Nu, the son of Nu. Scarcely had the young man’s father left her than she turned back toward the shelters. First she would search the village, and if she did not find him there she would go out into the jungle and along the beach—he could not be far. As Nat-ul searched the shelters of the Boat Builders, a figure hid beneath a pile of aurochs skins in one of them, stirred, uncovered an ear, and listened. The sounds of conflict had retreated, the village seemed deserted. An arm threw aside the coverings and a man sprang quickly to his feet. It was Tur. Hard pressed by the savage spearmen of the caves and surrounded, the man had crawled within a hut and hidden himself beneath the skins.

Now he thought he saw a chance to escape while the enemy were pursuing his people. He approached the entrance to the shelter and peered out. Quickly he drew back—he had seen a figure emerging from the next hut. It was a woman, and she was coming toward the shelter in which he had concealed himself. The light of the beast-fires played upon her. Tur drew in his breath in pleased surprise—it was the woman he had once captured and who had escaped him.

Nat-ul advanced rapidly to the shelter. She thought them all deserted. As she entered this one she saw the figure of a man dimly visible in the darkness of the interior. She thought it one of the warriors of her own tribe, looting. Oftentimes they could not wait the total destruction of an enemy before searching greedily for booty.

“Who are you?” she asked, and then, not waiting for an answer: “I am searching for Nu, the son of Nu.”

Tur saw his opportunity and was quick to grasp it.

“I know where he is,” he said. “I am one of Scarb’s people, but I will lead you to Nu, the son of Nu, if you will promise that you will protect me from your warriors when we return. My people have fled, and I may never hope to reach them again unless you promise to aid me.”

Nat-ul thought this a natural and fair proposition, and was quick to accept it.

“Then come,” cried Tur. “There is no time to be lost. The man is hidden in a cove south of here along the shore. He is fast bound and so was left without a guard. If we hurry we may reach him before my people regain him. If we can elude your warriors and the delay that would follow their discovery of me we may yet be in time.”

Tur hurried from the shelter followed by Nat-ul. The man was careful to keep his face averted from the girl while they traversed the area lit by the camp and beast-fires, so he forged ahead trusting to her desire to find her man to urge her after him. Nor did he over-estimate the girl’s anxiety to find Nu, the son of Nu. Nat-ul followed swiftly upon Tur’s heels through the deserted village and across the beach from whence the sounds of conflict rose beside the sea.

Tur kept to the north of the fighters, going to a spot upon the beach where he had left his own boat. He found the craft without difficulty, pushed it into the water, lifted Nat-ul into it, and shoved it through the surf. To Tur the work required but a moment—he was as much at home in the boiling surf as upon dry land.

Seated in the stern with Nat-ul facing him in the bow he forced the dug-out beyond the grip of the rollers. Nat-ul took up a second paddle that lay at her feet, plying it awkwardly perhaps, but not without good effect. She could scarce wait until the boat reached the cove, and every effort of her own added so much to the speed of the craft.

Tur kept the boat’s head toward the open sea. It was his purpose to turn toward the south after they were well out, and, moving slowly during the night, await the breaking dawn to disclose the whereabouts of his fellows. That they, too, would paddle slowly southward he was sure.

Presently he caught sight of the outline of a boat just ahead. Probably beyond that were others. He had been fortunate to stumble upon the last boat-load of his fleeing tribe. He did not hail them for two reasons. One was that he did not wish the girl to know that he was not bearing her south toward the cove—the imaginary location of her man; and the other was due to the danger of attracting the attention of the enemy who might have captured some of the boats and be carrying the pursuit out upon the sea.

Presently a third possibility kept him quiet—the boat ahead might contain warriors of the enemy searching for fugitives. Tur did not know that the tribe of Nu was entirely unfamiliar with navigation—that never before had they dreamed of such a thing as a boat.

So Tur followed the boat ahead in silence straight out to sea. To Nat-ul it seemed that the cove must be a long distance away. In the darkness she did not perceive that they were traveling directly away from shore. After a long time she heard the pounding of surf to the left of the boat. She was startled and confused. Traveling south, as she supposed they had been doing, the surf should have been off the right side of the boat.

“Where are we?” she asked. “There is land upon the left, whereas it should be upon the right.”

Tur laughed.

“We must be lost,” he said; but Nat-ul knew now that she had been deceived. At the same instant there came over her a sudden sense of familiarity in the voice of her companion. Where had she heard it before? She strove to pierce the darkness that shrouded the features of the man at the opposite end of the boat.

“Who are you?” she asked. “Where are you taking me?”

“You will soon be with your man,” replied Tur, but there was an ill-concealed note of gloating that did not escape Nat-ul.

The girl now remained silent. She no longer paddled, but sat listening to the booming of the surf which she realized that they were approaching. What shore was it? Her mind was working rapidly. She was accustomed to depending largely on a well developed instinct for locality and direction upon land, and while it did not aid her much upon the water it at least preserved her from the hopeless bewilderment that besets the average modern when once he loses his bearings, preventing any semblance of rational thought in the establishment of his whereabouts. Nat-ul knew that they had not turned toward the north once after they had left the shore, and so she knew that the mainland could not be upon their left. Therefore the surf upon that hand must be breaking upon the shore of one of the islands that she only too well knew lay off the mainland. Which of the islands they were approaching she could not guess, but any one of them was sufficiently horrible in her estimation.

Nat-ul planned quickly against the emergency which confronted her. She knew, or thought, that the man had brought her here where she would be utterly helpless in his power. Her people could not follow them. There would be none to succor or avenge.

Tur was wielding his paddle rapidly and vigorously now. He shot the boat just ahead of an enormous roller that presently caught and lifted it upon its crest carrying it swiftly up the beach. As the keel touched the sand Tur leaped out and dragged the craft as far up as he could while the wave receded to the ocean.

Nat-ul stepped out upon the beach. In her hand she still held the paddle. Tur came toward her. He was quite close, so close that even in the darkness of the night she saw his features, and recognized them. He reached toward her arm to seize her.

“Come,” he said. “Come to your mate.”

Like a flash the crude, heavy paddle flew back over Nat-ul’s shoulder, cleaving the air downward toward the man’s head. Tur, realizing his danger, leaped back, but the point of the blade struck his forehead a glancing blow. The man reeled drunkenly for a second, stumbled forward and fell full upon his face on the wet sand. The instant that the blade touched her tormentor Nat-ul dropped the paddle, dodged past the man, and scurried like a frightened deer toward the black shadows of the jungle above the beach.

The next great roller washed in across the prostrate form of Tur. It rolled him over, and as it raced back toward the sea it dragged him with it; but the water revived him, and he came coughing and struggling to his hands and knees, clinging desperately to life until the waters receded, leaving him in momentary safety. Slowly he staggered to his feet and made his way up the beach beyond the reach of the greedy seas.

His head hurt him terribly. Blood trickled down his cheek and clotted upon his hairy breast. And he was mad with rage and the lust for vengeance. Could he have laid his hands upon Nat-ul then she would have died beneath his choking fingers. But he did not lay hands upon her, for Nat-ul was already safely ensconced in a tree just within the shadows of the jungle. Until daylight she was as safe there from Tur as though a thousand miles separated them. A half hour later Nu and Gron, a mile further inland, were clambering into another tree. Ah, if Nat-ul could but have known it, what doubt, despair and suffering she might have been spared.

Tur ran down the beach in the direction in which he thought that he heard the sound of the fleeing Nat-ul. Yes, there she was! Tur redoubled his speed. His quarry was just beneath a tree at the edge of the jungle. The man leaped forward with an exclamation of savage satisfaction—that died upon his lips, frozen by the horrid roar of a lion. Tur turned and fled. The thing he had thought was Nat-ul proved to be a huge cave lion standing over the corpse of its kill. Fortunate for Tur was it that the beast already had its supper before it. It did not pursue the frightened man, and so Tur reached the safety of a nearby tree, where he crouched, shaking and trembling, throughout the balance of the night. Tur was a boat builder and a fisherman—he was not of the stock of Nu and Nat-ul—the hunters of savage beasts, the precursors of warrior nations yet unborn.

The Eternal Lover - Contents    |     Part II - Chapter XIII - Nat-ul is Heart-Broken

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