Why-Why, as our hero was commonly called in the tribe, was born, long before Romulus built his wall, in a cave which may still be observed in the neighbourhood of Mentone. On the warm shores of the Mediterranean, protected from winds by a wall of rock, the group of which Why-Why was the offspring had attained conditions of comparative comfort. The remains of their dinners, many feet deep, still constitute the flooring of the cave, and the tourist, as he pokes the soil with the point of his umbrella, turns up bits of bone, shreds of chipped flint, and other interesting relics. In the big cave lived several little families, all named by the names of their mothers. These ladies had been knocked on the head and dragged home, according to the marriage customs of the period, from places as distant as the modern Marseilles and Genoa. Why-Why, with his little brothers and sisters, were named Serpents, were taught to believe that the serpent was the first ancestor of their race, and that they must never injure any creeping thing. When they were still very young, the figure of the serpent was tattooed over their legs and breasts, so that every member of primitive society who met them had the advantage of knowing their crest and highly respectable family name.
The birth of Why-Why was a season of discomfort and privation. The hill tribe which lived on the summit of the hill now known as the Tete du Chien had long been aware that an addition to the population of the cave was expected. They had therefore prepared, according to the invariable etiquette of these early times, to come down on the cave people, maltreat the ladies, steal all the property they could lay hands on, and break whatever proved too heavy to carry. Good manners, of course, forbade the cave people to resist this visit, but etiquette permitted (and in New Caledonia still permits) the group to bury and hide its portable possessions. Canoes had been brought into the little creek beneath the cave, to convey the women and children into a safe retreat, and the men were just beginning to hide the spears, bone daggers, flint fish-hooks, mats, shell razors, nets, and so forth, when Why-Why gave an early proof of his precocity by entering the world some time before his arrival was expected.