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TARZAN of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Chapter 6

Jungle Battles

The wanderings of the tribe brought them often near the

closed and silent cabin by the little land-locked harbor.

To Tarzan this was always a source of never-ending mystery

and pleasure.

He would peek into the curtained windows, or, climbing

upon the roof, peer down the black depths of the chimney in

vain endeavor to solve the unknown wonders that lay within

those strong walls.

His child-like imagination pictured wonderful creatures

within, and the very impossibility of forcing entrance

added a thousandfold to his desire to do so.

He could clamber about the roof and windows for hours

attempting to discover means of ingress, but to the door he paid

little attention, for this was apparently as solid as the walls.

It was in the next visit to the vicinity, following the

adventure with old Sabor, that, as he approached the cabin,

Tarzan noticed that from a distance the door appeared to be an

independent part of the wall in which it was set, and for the first

time it occurred to him that this might prove the means of

entrance which had so long eluded him.

He was alone, as was often the case when he visited the

cabin, for the apes had no love for it; the story of the

thunder-stick having lost nothing in the telling during these

ten years had quite surrounded the white man's deserted abode

with an atmosphere of weirdness and terror for the simians.

The story of his own connection with the cabin had never

been told him. The language of the apes had so few words

that they could talk but little of what they had seen in the

cabin, having no words to accurately describe either the

strange people or their belongings, and so, long before

Tarzan was old enough to understand, the subject had been

forgotten by the tribe.

Only in a dim, vague way had Kala explained to him that

his father had been a strange white ape, but he did not know

that Kala was not his own mother.

On this day, then, he went directly to the door and spent

hours examining it and fussing with the hinges, the knob and

the latch. Finally he stumbled upon the right combination,

and the door swung creakingly open before his astonished eyes.

For some minutes he did not dare venture within, but finally,

as his eyes became accustomed to the dim light of the

interior he slowly and cautiously entered.

In the middle of the floor lay a skeleton, every vestige of

flesh gone from the bones to which still clung the mildewed

and moldered remnants of what had once been clothing.

Upon the bed lay a similar gruesome thing, but smaller, while

in a tiny cradle near-by was a third, a wee mite of a skeleton.

To none of these evidences of a fearful tragedy of a long

dead day did little Tarzan give but passing heed. His wild

jungle life had inured him to the sight of dead and dying

animals, and had he known that he was looking upon the remains

of his own father and mother he would have been no more

greatly moved.

The furnishings and other contents of the room it was

which riveted his attention. He examined many things

minutely--strange tools and weapons, books, paper, clothing--

what little had withstood the ravages of time in the humid

atmosphere of the jungle coast.

He opened chests and cupboards, such as did not baffle his

small experience, and in these he found the contents much

better preserved.

Among other things he found a sharp hunting knife, on the

keen blade of which he immediately proceeded to cut his

finger. Undaunted he continued his experiments, finding that

he could hack and hew splinters of wood from the table and

chairs with this new toy.

For a long time this amused him, but finally tiring he

continued his explorations. In a cupboard filled with books

he came across one with brightly colored pictures--it was a

child's illustrated alphabet--

A is for Archer

Who shoots with a bow.

B is for Boy,

His first name is Joe.

The pictures interested him greatly.

There were many apes with faces similar to his own, and

further over in the book he found, under "M," some little

monkeys such as he saw daily flitting through the trees of his

primeval forest. But nowhere was pictured any of his own

people; in all the book was none that resembled Kerchak, or

Tublat, or Kala.

At first he tried to pick the little figures from the leaves,

but he soon saw that they were not real, though he knew not

what they might be, nor had he any words to describe them.

The boats, and trains, and cows and horses were quite

meaningless to him, but not quite so baffling as the odd little

figures which appeared beneath and between the colored

pictures--some strange kind of bug he thought they might be,

for many of them had legs though nowhere could he find one

with eyes and a mouth. It was his first introduction to the

letters of the alphabet, and he was over ten years old.

Of course he had never before seen print, or ever had

spoken with any living thing which had the remotest idea that

such a thing as a written language existed, nor ever had he

seen anyone reading.

So what wonder that the little boy was quite at a loss to

guess the meaning of these strange figures.

Near the middle of the book he found his old enemy,

Sabor, the lioness, and further on, coiled Histah, the snake.

Oh, it was most engrossing! Never before in all his ten

years had he enjoyed anything so much. So absorbed was he

that he did not note the approaching dusk, until it was quite

upon him and the figures were blurred.

He put the book back in the cupboard and closed the door,

for he did not wish anyone else to find and destroy his

treasure, and as he went out into the gathering darkness he closed

the great door of the cabin behind him as it had been before

he discovered the secret of its lock, but before he left he had

noticed the hunting knife lying where he had thrown it upon

the floor, and this he picked up and took with him to show to

his fellows.

He had taken scarce a dozen steps toward the jungle when

a great form rose up before him from the shadows of a low

bush. At first he thought it was one of his own people but in

another instant he realized that it was Bolgani, the huge gorilla.

So close was he that there was no chance for flight and

little Tarzan knew that he must stand and fight for his life;

for these great beasts were the deadly enemies of his tribe, and

neither one nor the other ever asked or gave quarter.

Had Tarzan been a full-grown bull ape of the species of

his tribe he would have been more than a match for the gorilla,

but being only a little English boy, though enormously

muscular for such, he stood no chance against his cruel

antagonist. In his veins, though, flowed the blood of the best

of a race of mighty fighters, and back of this was the training

of his short lifetime among the fierce brutes of the jungle.

He knew no fear, as we know it; his little heart beat the

faster but from the excitement and exhilaration of adventure.

Had the opportunity presented itself he would have escaped,

but solely because his judgment told him he was no match

for the great thing which confronted him. And since reason

showed him that successful flight was impossible he met the

gorilla squarely and bravely without a tremor of a single

muscle, or any sign of panic.

In fact he met the brute midway in its charge, striking its

huge body with his closed fists and as futilely as he had been

a fly attacking an elephant. But in one hand he still clutched

the knife he had found in the cabin of his father, and as the

brute, striking and biting, closed upon him the boy accidentally

turned the point toward the hairy breast. As the knife

sank deep into its body the gorilla shrieked in pain and rage.

But the boy had learned in that brief second a use for his

sharp and shining toy, so that, as the tearing, striking beast

dragged him to earth he plunged the blade repeatedly and to

the hilt into its breast.

The gorilla, fighting after the manner of its kind, struck

terrific blows with its open hand, and tore the flesh at the

boy's throat and chest with its mighty tusks.

For a moment they rolled upon the ground in the fierce

frenzy of combat. More and more weakly the torn and bleeding

arm struck home with the long sharp blade, then the little

figure stiffened with a spasmodic jerk, and Tarzan, the young

Lord Greystoke, rolled unconscious upon the dead and decaying

vegetation which carpeted his jungle home.

A mile back in the forest the tribe had heard the fierce

challenge of the gorilla, and, as was his custom when any

danger threatened, Kerchak called his people together, partly

for mutual protection against a common enemy, since this

gorilla might be but one of a party of several, and also to see

that all members of the tribe were accounted for.

It was soon discovered that Tarzan was missing, and Tublat

was strongly opposed to sending assistance. Kerchak himself

had no liking for the strange little waif, so he listened to

Tublat, and, finally, with a shrug of his shoulders, turned

back to the pile of leaves on which he had made his bed.

But Kala was of a different mind; in fact, she had not

waited but to learn that Tarzan was absent ere she was fairly

flying through the matted branches toward the point from

which the cries of the gorilla were still plainly audible.

Darkness had now fallen, and an early moon was sending

its faint light to cast strange, grotesque shadows among the

dense foliage of the forest.

Here and there the brilliant rays penetrated to earth, but

for the most part they only served to accentuate the Stygian

blackness of the jungle's depths.

Like some huge phantom, Kala swung noiselessly from

tree to tree; now running nimbly along a great branch, now

swinging through space at the end of another, only to grasp

that of a farther tree in her rapid progress toward the scene

of the tragedy her knowledge of jungle life told her was being

enacted a short distance before her.

The cries of the gorilla proclaimed that it was in mortal

combat with some other denizen of the fierce wood. Suddenly

these cries ceased, and the silence of death reigned throughout

the jungle.

Kala could not understand, for the voice of Bolgani had at

last been raised in the agony of suffering and death, but

no sound had come to her by which she possibly could determine

the nature of his antagonist.

That her little Tarzan could destroy a great bull gorilla she

knew to be improbable, and so, as she neared the spot from

which the sounds of the struggle had come, she moved more

warily and at last slowly and with extreme caution she

traversed the lowest branches, peering eagerly into the moon-

splashed blackness for a sign of the combatants.

Presently she came upon them, lying in a little open space

full under the brilliant light of the moon--little Tarzan's torn

and bloody form, and beside it a great bull gorilla, stone dead.

With a low cry Kala rushed to Tarzan's side, and gathering the

poor, blood-covered body to her breast, listened for a sign of

life. Faintly she heard it--the weak beating of the little heart.

Tenderly she bore him back through the inky jungle to

where the tribe lay, and for many days and nights she sat

guard beside him, bringing him food and water, and brushing

the flies and other insects from his cruel wounds.

Of medicine or surgery the poor thing knew nothing. She

could but lick the wounds, and thus she kept them cleansed,

that healing nature might the more quickly do her work.

At first Tarzan would eat nothing, but rolled and tossed in

a wild delirium of fever. All he craved was water, and this

she brought him in the only way she could, bearing it in her

own mouth.

No human mother could have shown more unselfish and

sacrificing devotion than did this poor, wild brute for the

little orphaned waif whom fate had thrown into her keeping.

At last the fever abated and the boy commenced to mend.

No word of complaint passed his tight set lips, though the

pain of his wounds was excruciating.

A portion of his chest was laid bare to the ribs, three of

which had been broken by the mighty blows of the gorilla.

One arm was nearly severed by the giant fangs, and a great

piece had been torn from his neck, exposing his jugular vein,

which the cruel jaws had missed but by a miracle.

With the stoicism of the brutes who had raised him he endured

his suffering quietly, preferring to crawl away from the

others and lie huddled in some clump of tall grasses rather

than to show his misery before their eyes.

Kala, alone, he was glad to have with him, but now that he

was better she was gone longer at a time, in search of food;

for the devoted animal had scarcely eaten enough to support

her own life while Tarzan had been so low, and was in

consequence, reduced to a mere shadow of her former self.



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