Chapter Ten - News of Kutnar.
PIC and the Mammoth had passed around the crevasse and were putting it behind them as fast as they could when several shrill squeals rang out and startled them nearly out of their wits.
Both stopped and looked back up the incline they had just descended. The sounds seemed to have come from the ice blocks and hummocks at the top. Hairi's mouth was wide open; his eyes were nearly popping from his head. Man and elephant stood rigid, listening, but all was now quiet. The squeals were not repeated.
"That voice," said the Mammoth in an awed whisper. "How strange. It seems as though I had heard it before." The two friends were still staring up the slide when suddenly without a sign of warning, a shaggy beast hove in sight at the top and shot down like a toboggan. It stood upright with feet spread far out. Had the creature's legs been longer so as to elevate its center of gravity, it must have toppled over and tumbled ingloriously to the bottom. However its legs were like four stout pegs. This made the weight hang low and the downward glide was completed right-side up. As the newcomer coasted along the level, its speed slackened and gradually it came to a atop. This happened to be right in front of the two friends. Here it stood motionless with eyes shut tight.
A joyful bellow came from the astonished Mammoth, staring as in a dream at his partner whose dramatic arrival had occurred so suddenly and unexpectedly.
The Woolly Rhinoceros did not respond. He had made up his mind that he was falling into that dreadful hole and would be dead when he struck bottom. He seemed to be sliding dreamily through space, falling more slowly every moment instead of faster as he should have done. The end was surprisingly calm and peaceful for he reached it without a jar. Then sounded sweet music - the voice of the one he loved best. He opened one eye. There stood Pic and the Mammoth in the flesh. He began to feel grave doubts. He gave a few faint grunts. It was like the hushed voice of a departed spirit; that made it funny to Pie who forgot his surprise and laughed loudly. "No, you're not dead at all," he said.
Wulli looked unconvinced for a minute, but after nosing the Mammoth and Pic decided all was well. The three friends were overjoyed at meeting. Pic grinned from ear to ear. He howled and danced for very joy. Hairi caught the spirit of his master and endeavored to imitate him, dancing up and down and shaking his tusks so violently that he slipped on the ice and sat down with a bump. Pic laughed and Wulli squealed at the sight. Even the Mammoth forgot how to look sad. He got upon his feet again thereby throwing his friends almost into convulsions. His fall had ripped a large patch of wool from his trousers' seat. He knew nothing of this, which made it all the more comical, seeing that the joke was on him. The whole world looked bright and gay just then.
When they had quieted down, the journey went on. The passage over these mountains was most difficult. Now it was up, up until they stood far above the clouds amid bleak wastes of ice and snow; then down, down into the almost bottomless valleys with their tangled shrubbery and swirling streams. The Woolly Rhinoceros in particular found this sort of touring most trying. It was not so bad going up but the coming down part terrified him. He was no mountaineer and he lost his head completely whenever he realized that the ground beneath him was no longer within easy jumping distance. In such circumstances, he stopped and squealed like a big booby, too frightened to move either up or down. This falling, falling soon made him a nuisance to Pic and the Mammoth who were managing fairly well and making no complaints. Finally when Wulli balked for about the fifteenth time, the Mammoth lost patience. The Rhinoceros stood in front of him, squealing "Oowee, oowee!" and blocking the way. He snorted impatiently, then seized Wulli's tail with his trunk as though to drag him to one side. whereupon the Rhinoceros proceeded briskly onward. Hairi released his hold and the Rhinoceros stopped. The Mammoth took a fresh grip and Wulli responded by moving on once more. Most extraordinary ! but Hairi asked no questions and held on to his partner's tail, for he saw that it produced results. Pic, who had been an interested spectator, finally remarked: "Wulli is afraid of falling. As long as you hold his tail he will not fear."
This was quite true. A simple remedy but the cure was immediate and complete. The Rhino's tail was but a bit of frayed rope and would not have withstood a fraction of Ins weight. Wulli's new sense of security may have been fancied, but what of it? T he Mammoth held his tail and that was enough. From then on, they got along finely, sailing up and down without a hitch. Whenever Wulli showed symptoms of balkiness the Mammoth cured him instantly by taking a grip on his tail.
They met the Chamois and the Ibex and the Snow Grouse, one after another, and learned that they were following the right path. The two first-named animals knew the directions only in a general way, but the Snow Grouse flew about a great deal and kept himself well informed as to what was going on. From him, Pic learned that a tribe of cavemen lived far to the east on that side of the mountains which faced the sea. By continuing due west, the party would pass along the southern or opposite side of these mountains. Here they would be protected from the bitter winds and could cross to the north side at the proper time.