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
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
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
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
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
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
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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Room | TARZAN
of the Apes