The White Ape
Tenderly Kala nursed her little waif, wondering silently
why it did not gain strength and agility as did the little
apes of other mothers. It was nearly a year from the time the
little fellow came into her possession before he would walk
alone, and as for climbing--my, but how stupid he was!
Kala sometimes talked with the older females about her
young hopeful, but none of them could understand how a
child could be so slow and backward in learning to care for
itself. Why, it could not even find food alone, and more
than twelve moons had passed since Kala had come upon it.
Had they known that the child had seen thirteen moons
before it had come into Kala's possession they would have
considered its case as absolutely hopeless, for the little apes
of their own tribe were as far advanced in two or three
moons as was this little stranger after twenty-five.
Tublat, Kala's husband, was sorely vexed, and but for the female's
careful watching would have put the child out of the way.
"He will never be a great ape," he argued. "Always will
you have to carry him and protect him. What good will he be
to the tribe? None; only a burden.
"Let us leave him quietly sleeping among the tall grasses,
that you may bear other and stronger apes to guard us in our
"Never, Broken Nose," replied Kala. "If I must carry him
forever, so be it."
And then Tublat went to Kerchak to urge him to use his
authority with Kala, and force her to give up little Tarzan,
which was the name they had given to the tiny Lord Greystoke,
and which meant "White-Skin."
But when Kerchak spoke to her about it Kala threatened
to run away from the tribe if they did not leave her in peace
with the child; and as this is one of the inalienable rights of
the jungle folk, if they be dissatisfied among their own people,
they bothered her no more, for Kala was a fine clean-limbed
young female, and they did not wish to lose her.
As Tarzan grew he made more rapid strides, so that by the
time he was ten years old he was an excellent climber, and on
the ground could do many wonderful things which were beyond
the powers of his little brothers and sisters.
In many ways did he differ from them, and they often
marveled at his superior cunning, but in strength and size he
was deficient; for at ten the great anthropoids were fully
grown, some of them towering over six feet in height, while
little Tarzan was still but a half-grown boy.
Yet such a boy!
From early childhood he had used his hands to swing from
branch to branch after the manner of his giant mother, and
as he grew older he spent hour upon hour daily speeding
through the tree tops with his brothers and sisters.
He could spring twenty feet across space at the dizzy
heights of the forest top, and grasp with unerring precision,
and without apparent jar, a limb waving wildly in the path of
an approaching tornado.
He could drop twenty feet at a stretch from limb to limb
in rapid descent to the ground, or he could gain the utmost
pinnacle of the loftiest tropical giant with the ease and
swiftness of a squirrel.
Though but ten years old he was fully as strong as the
average man of thirty, and far more agile than the most
practiced athlete ever becomes. And day by day his strength
His life among these fierce apes had been happy; for his
recollection held no other life, nor did he know that there
existed within the universe aught else than his little forest
and the wild jungle animals with which he was familiar.
He was nearly ten before he commenced to realize that a
great difference existed between himself and his fellows. His
little body, burned brown by exposure, suddenly caused him
feelings of intense shame, for he realized that it was entirely
hairless, like some low snake, or other reptile.
He attempted to obviate this by plastering himself from
head to foot with mud, but this dried and fell off. Besides it
felt so uncomfortable that he quickly decided that he
preferred the shame to the discomfort.
In the higher land which his tribe frequented was a little
lake, and it was here that Tarzan first saw his face in the
clear, still waters of its bosom.
It was on a sultry day of the dry season that he and one of
his cousins had gone down to the bank to drink. As they
leaned over, both little faces were mirrored on the placid
pool; the fierce and terrible features of the ape beside those
of the aristocratic scion of an old English house.
Tarzan was appalled. It had been bad enough to be hairless,
but to own such a countenance! He wondered that the
other apes could look at him at all.
That tiny slit of a mouth and those puny white teeth! How
they looked beside the mighty lips and powerful fangs of his
more fortunate brothers!
And the little pinched nose of his; so thin was it that it
looked half starved. He turned red as he compared it with the
beautiful broad nostrils of his companion. Such a generous nose!
Why it spread half across his face! It certainly must be
fine to be so handsome, thought poor little Tarzan.
But when he saw his own eyes; ah, that was the final blow
--a brown spot, a gray circle and then blank whiteness!
Frightful! not even the snakes had such hideous eyes as he.
So intent was he upon this personal appraisement of his
features that he did not hear the parting of the tall grass
behind him as a great body pushed itself stealthily through
the jungle; nor did his companion, the ape, hear either, for
he was drinking and the noise of his sucking lips and gurgles
of satisfaction drowned the quiet approach of the intruder.
Not thirty paces behind the two she crouched--Sabor, the
huge lioness--lashing her tail. Cautiously she moved a great
padded paw forward, noiselessly placing it before she lifted
the next. Thus she advanced; her belly low, almost touching
the surface of the ground--a great cat preparing to spring
upon its prey.
Now she was within ten feet of the two unsuspecting little
playfellows--carefully she drew her hind feet well up beneath
her body, the great muscles rolling under the beautiful skin.
So low she was crouching now that she seemed flattened to
the earth except for the upward bend of the glossy back as it
gathered for the spring.
No longer the tail lashed--quiet and straight behind her it lay.
An instant she paused thus, as though turned to stone, and
then, with an awful scream, she sprang.
Sabor, the lioness, was a wise hunter. To one less wise the
wild alarm of her fierce cry as she sprang would have seemed
a foolish thing, for could she not more surely have fallen upon
her victims had she but quietly leaped without that loud shriek?
But Sabor knew well the wondrous quickness of the jungle
folk and their almost unbelievable powers of hearing. To
them the sudden scraping of one blade of grass across
another was as effectual a warning as her loudest cry, and
Sabor knew that she could not make that mighty leap without
a little noise.
Her wild scream was not a warning. It was voiced to
freeze her poor victims in a paralysis of terror for the tiny
fraction of an instant which would suffice for her mighty
claws to sink into their soft flesh and hold them beyond hope
So far as the ape was concerned, Sabor reasoned correctly.
The little fellow crouched trembling just an instant, but that
instant was quite long enough to prove his undoing.
Not so, however, with Tarzan, the man-child. His life
amidst the dangers of the jungle had taught him to meet
emergencies with self-confidence, and his higher intelligence
resulted in a quickness of mental action far beyond the powers
of the apes.
So the scream of Sabor, the lioness, galvanized the brain
and muscles of little Tarzan into instant action.
Before him lay the deep waters of the little lake, behind
him certain death; a cruel death beneath tearing claws and
Tarzan had always hated water except as a medium for
quenching his thirst. He hated it because he connected it with
the chill and discomfort of the torrential rains, and he feared
it for the thunder and lightning and wind which accompanied them.
The deep waters of the lake he had been taught by his wild
mother to avoid, and further, had he not seen little Neeta
sink beneath its quiet surface only a few short weeks before
never to return to the tribe?
But of the two evils his quick mind chose the lesser ere the
first note of Sabor's scream had scarce broken the quiet of
the jungle, and before the great beast had covered half her
leap Tarzan felt the chill waters close above his head.
He could not swim, and the water was very deep; but still he
lost no particle of that self-confidence and resourcefulness
which were the badges of his superior being.
Rapidly he moved his hands and feet in an attempt to
scramble upward, and, possibly more by chance than design,
he fell into the stroke that a dog uses when swimming, so
that within a few seconds his nose was above water and he
found that he could keep it there by continuing his strokes,
and also make progress through the water.
He was much surprised and pleased with this new acquirement
which had been so suddenly thrust upon him, but he had no
time for thinking much upon it.
He was now swimming parallel to the bank and there he
saw the cruel beast that would have seized him crouching
upon the still form of his little playmate.
The lioness was intently watching Tarzan, evidently expecting
him to return to shore, but this the boy had no intention
Instead he raised his voice in the call of distress common
to his tribe, adding to it the warning which would prevent
would-be rescuers from running into the clutches of Sabor.
Almost immediately there came an answer from the distance,
and presently forty or fifty great apes swung rapidly and
majestically through the trees toward the scene of tragedy.
In the lead was Kala, for she had recognized the tones of
her best beloved, and with her was the mother of the little
ape who lay dead beneath cruel Sabor.
Though more powerful and better equipped for fighting than
the apes, the lioness had no desire to meet these enraged
adults, and with a snarl of hatred she sprang quickly
into the brush and disappeared.
Tarzan now swam to shore and clambered quickly upon
dry land. The feeling of freshness and exhilaration which the
cool waters had imparted to him, filled his little being with
grateful surprise, and ever after he lost no opportunity to
take a daily plunge in lake or stream or ocean when it was
possible to do so.
For a long time Kala could not accustom herself to the
sight; for though her people could swim when forced to it,
they did not like to enter water, and never did so voluntarily.
The adventure with the lioness gave Tarzan food for
pleasurable memories, for it was such affairs which broke
the monotony of his daily life--otherwise but a dull round of
searching for food, eating, and sleeping.
The tribe to which he belonged roamed a tract extending,
roughly, twenty-five miles along the seacoast and some fifty
miles inland. This they traversed almost continually,
occasionally remaining for months in one locality; but as they
moved through the trees with great speed they often covered
the territory in a very few days.
Much depended upon food supply, climatic conditions, and
the prevalence of animals of the more dangerous species;
though Kerchak often led them on long marches for no other
reason than that he had tired of remaining in the same place.
At night they slept where darkness overtook them, lying
upon the ground, and sometimes covering their heads, and
more seldom their bodies, with the great leaves of the
elephant's ear. Two or three might lie cuddled in each other's
arms for additional warmth if the night were chill, and thus
Tarzan had slept in Kala's arms nightly for all these years.
That the huge, fierce brute loved this child of another race
is beyond question, and he, too, gave to the great, hairy beast
all the affection that would have belonged to his fair young
mother had she lived.
When he was disobedient she cuffed him, it is true, but she
was never cruel to him, and was more often caressing him
than chastising him.
Tublat, her mate, always hated Tarzan, and on several
occasions had come near ending his youthful career.
Tarzan on his part never lost an opportunity to show that
he fully reciprocated his foster father's sentiments, and
whenever he could safely annoy him or make faces at him or hurl
insults upon him from the safety of his mother's arms, or the
slender branches of the higher trees, he did so.
His superior intelligence and cunning permitted him to invent
a thousand diabolical tricks to add to the burdens of
Early in his boyhood he had learned to form ropes by
twisting and tying long grasses together, and with these he
was forever tripping Tublat or attempting to hang him from
some overhanging branch.
By constant playing and experimenting with these he learned
to tie rude knots, and make sliding nooses; and with these he
and the younger apes amused themselves. What Tarzan did they
tried to do also, but he alone originated and became proficient.
One day while playing thus Tarzan had thrown his rope at
one of his fleeing companions, retaining the other end in his
grasp. By accident the noose fell squarely about the running
ape's neck, bringing him to a sudden and surprising halt.
Ah, here was a new game, a fine game, thought Tarzan, and
immediately he attempted to repeat the trick. And thus, by
painstaking and continued practice, he learned the art of roping.
Now, indeed, was the life of Tublat a living nightmare. In
sleep, upon the march, night or day, he never knew when
that quiet noose would slip about his neck and nearly choke
the life out of him.
Kala punished, Tublat swore dire vengeance, and old Kerchak
took notice and warned and threatened; but all to no avail.
Tarzan defied them all, and the thin, strong noose continued
to settle about Tublat's neck whenever he least expected it.
The other apes derived unlimited amusement from Tublat's
discomfiture, for Broken Nose was a disagreeable old fellow,
whom no one liked, anyway.
In Tarzan's clever little mind many thoughts revolved, and
back of these was his divine power of reason.
If he could catch his fellow apes with his long arm of
many grasses, why not Sabor, the lioness?
It was the germ of a thought, which, however, was destined
to mull around in his conscious and subconscious mind
until it resulted in magnificent achievement.
But that came in later years.
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Room | TARZAN
of the Apes