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TARZAN of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Chapter 7

The Light of Knowledge

After what seemed an eternity to the little sufferer he was

able to walk once more, and from then on his recovery

was so rapid that in another month he was as strong and

active as ever.

During his convalescence he had gone over in his mind

many times the battle with the gorilla, and his first thought

was to recover the wonderful little weapon which had transformed

him from a hopelessly outclassed weakling to the superior

of the mighty terror of the jungle.

Also, he was anxious to return to the cabin and continue

his investigations of its wondrous contents.

So, early one morning, he set forth alone upon his quest.

After a little search he located the clean-picked bones of his

late adversary, and close by, partly buried beneath the fallen

leaves, he found the knife, now red with rust from its exposure

to the dampness of the ground and from the dried blood

of the gorilla.

He did not like the change in its former bright and gleaming

surface; but it was still a formidable weapon, and one

which he meant to use to advantage whenever the opportunity

presented itself. He had in mind that no more would he

run from the wanton attacks of old Tublat.

In another moment he was at the cabin, and after a short

time had again thrown the latch and entered. His first concern

was to learn the mechanism of the lock, and this he did

by examining it closely while the door was open, so that he

could learn precisely what caused it to hold the door, and by

what means it released at his touch.

He found that he could close and lock the door from

within, and this he did so that there would be no chance

of his being molested while at his investigation.

He commenced a systematic search of the cabin; but his

attention was soon riveted by the books which seemed to

exert a strange and powerful influence over him, so that he

could scarce attend to aught else for the lure of the wondrous

puzzle which their purpose presented to him.

Among the other books were a primer, some child's readers,

numerous picture books, and a great dictionary. All of

these he examined, but the pictures caught his fancy most,

though the strange little bugs which covered the pages where

there were no pictures excited his wonder and deepest thought.

Squatting upon his haunches on the table top in the cabin

his father had built--his smooth, brown, naked little body

bent over the book which rested in his strong slender hands, and

his great shock of long, black hair falling about his well-

shaped head and bright, intelligent eyes--Tarzan of the apes,

little primitive man, presented a picture filled, at once, with

pathos and with promise--an allegorical figure of the primordial

groping through the black night of ignorance toward the

light of learning.

His little face was tense in study, for he had partially

grasped, in a hazy, nebulous way, the rudiments of a thought

which was destined to prove the key and the solution to the

puzzling problem of the strange little bugs.

In his hands was a primer opened at a picture of a little

ape similar to himself, but covered, except for hands and

face, with strange, colored fur, for such he thought the jacket

and trousers to be. Beneath the picture were three little bugs--


And now he had discovered in the text upon the page that

these three were repeated many times in the same sequence.

Another fact he learned--that there were comparatively

few individual bugs; but these were repeated many times,

occasionally alone, but more often in company with others.

Slowly he turned the pages, scanning the pictures and the

text for a repetition of the combination B-O-Y. Presently he

found it beneath a picture of another little ape and a strange

animal which went upon four legs like the jackal and resembled

him not a little. Beneath this picture the bugs appeared as:


There they were, the three little bugs which always accompanied

the little ape.

And so he progressed very, very slowly, for it was a hard

and laborious task which he had set himself without knowing

it--a task which might seem to you or me impossible--learning

to read without having the slightest knowledge of letters or

written language, or the faintest idea that such things existed.

He did not accomplish it in a day, or in a week, or in a

month, or in a year; but slowly, very slowly, he learned after

he had grasped the possibilities which lay in those little bugs,

so that by the time he was fifteen he knew the various

combinations of letters which stood for every pictured figure

in the little primer and in one or two of the picture books.

Of the meaning and use of the articles and conjunctions, verbs

and adverbs and pronouns he had but the faintest conception.

One day when he was about twelve he found a number of

lead pencils in a hitherto undiscovered drawer beneath the

table, and in scratching upon the table top with one of them

he was delighted to discover the black line it left behind it.

He worked so assiduously with this new toy that the table

top was soon a mass of scrawly loops and irregular lines and

his pencil-point worn down to the wood. Then he took another

pencil, but this time he had a definite object in view.

He would attempt to reproduce some of the little bugs that

scrambled over the pages of his books.

It was a difficult task, for he held the pencil as one would

grasp the hilt of a dagger, which does not add greatly to ease

in writing or to the legibility of the results.

But he persevered for months, at such times as he was able

to come to the cabin, until at last by repeated experimenting

he found a position in which to hold the pencil that best

permitted him to guide and control it, so that at last he could

roughly reproduce any of the little bugs.

Thus he made a beginning of writing.

Copying the bugs taught him another thing--their number;

and though he could not count as we understand it, yet he

had an idea of quantity, the base of his calculations being

the number of fingers upon one of his hands.

His search through the various books convinced him that

he had discovered all the different kinds of bugs most often

repeated in combination, and these he arranged in proper

order with great ease because of the frequency with which he

had perused the fascinating alphabet picture book.

His education progressed; but his greatest finds were in the

inexhaustible storehouse of the huge illustrated dictionary, for

he learned more through the medium of pictures than text,

even after he had grasped the significance of the bugs.

When he discovered the arrangement of words in alphabetical

order he delighted in searching for and finding the

combinations with which he was familiar, and the words which

followed them, their definitions, led him still further into the

mazes of erudition.

By the time he was seventeen he had learned to read the

simple, child's primer and had fully realized the true and

wonderful purpose of the little bugs.

No longer did he feel shame for his hairless body or his

human features, for now his reason told him that he was of a

different race from his wild and hairy companions. He was a

M-A-N, they were A-P-E-S, and the little apes which scurried

through the forest top were M-O-N-K-E-Y-S. He knew, too,

that old Sabor was a L-I-O-N-E-S-S, and Histah a S-N-A-K-E,

and Tantor an E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T. And so he learned to read.

From then on his progress was rapid. With the help of the

great dictionary and the active intelligence of a healthy mind

endowed by inheritance with more than ordinary reasoning

powers he shrewdly guessed at much which he could not

really understand, and more often than not his guesses were

close to the mark of truth.

There were many breaks in his education, caused by the

migratory habits of his tribe, but even when removed from

his books his active brain continued to search out the

mysteries of his fascinating avocation.

Pieces of bark and flat leaves and even smooth stretches of

bare earth provided him with copy books whereon to scratch

with the point of his hunting knife the lessons he was learning.

Nor did he neglect the sterner duties of life while following

the bent of his inclination toward the solving of the mystery

of his library.

He practiced with his rope and played with his sharp knife,

which he had learned to keep keen by whetting upon flat stones.

The tribe had grown larger since Tarzan had come among

them, for under the leadership of Kerchak they had been

able to frighten the other tribes from their part of the jungle

so that they had plenty to eat and little or no loss from

predatory incursions of neighbors.

Hence the younger males as they became adult found it

more comfortable to take mates from their own tribe, or if

they captured one of another tribe to bring her back to

Kerchak's band and live in amity with him rather than attempt

to set up new establishments of their own, or fight with the

redoubtable Kerchak for supremacy at home.

Occasionally one more ferocious than his fellows would

attempt this latter alternative, but none had come yet who

could wrest the palm of victory from the fierce and brutal ape.

Tarzan held a peculiar position in the tribe. They seemed

to consider him one of them and yet in some way different.

The older males either ignored him entirely or else hated him

so vindictively that but for his wondrous agility and speed

and the fierce protection of the huge Kala he would have

been dispatched at an early age.

Tublat was his most consistent enemy, but it was through

Tublat that, when he was about thirteen, the persecution of

his enemies suddenly ceased and he was left severely alone,

except on the occasions when one of them ran amuck in the

throes of one of those strange, wild fits of insane rage which

attacks the males of many of the fiercer animals of the jungle.

Then none was safe.

On the day that Tarzan established his right to respect, the

tribe was gathered about a small natural amphitheater which

the jungle had left free from its entangling vines and creepers

in a hollow among some low hills.

The open space was almost circular in shape. Upon every

hand rose the mighty giants of the untouched forest, with the

matted undergrowth banked so closely between the huge

trunks that the only opening into the little, level arena was

through the upper branches of the trees.

Here, safe from interruption, the tribe often gathered. In

the center of the amphitheater was one of those strange

earthen drums which the anthropoids build for the queer rites

the sounds of which men have heard in the fastnesses of the

jungle, but which none has ever witnessed.

Many travelers have seen the drums of the great apes, and

some have heard the sounds of their beating and the noise of

the wild, weird revelry of these first lords of the jungle, but

Tarzan, Lord Greystoke, is, doubtless, the only human being

who ever joined in the fierce, mad, intoxicating revel of the


From this primitive function has arisen, unquestionably, all

the forms and ceremonials of modern church and state, for

through all the countless ages, back beyond the uttermost

ramparts of a dawning humanity our fierce, hairy forebears

danced out the rites of the Dum-Dum to the sound of their

earthen drums, beneath the bright light of a tropical moon in

the depth of a mighty jungle which stands unchanged today

as it stood on that long forgotten night in the dim, unthinkable

vistas of the long dead past when our first shaggy ancestor

swung from a swaying bough and dropped lightly upon

the soft turf of the first meeting place.

On the day that Tarzan won his emancipation from the

persecution that had followed him remorselessly for twelve of

his thirteen years of life, the tribe, now a full hundred strong,

trooped silently through the lower terrace of the jungle trees

and dropped noiselessly upon the floor of the amphitheater.

The rites of the Dum-Dum marked important events in the

life of the tribe--a victory, the capture of a prisoner, the

killing of some large fierce denizen of the jungle, the death or

accession of a king, and were conducted with set ceremonialism.

Today it was the killing of a giant ape, a member of another

tribe, and as the people of Kerchak entered the arena

two mighty bulls were seen bearing the body of the

vanquished between them.

They laid their burden before the earthen drum and then

squatted there beside it as guards, while the other members of

the community curled themselves in grassy nooks to sleep

until the rising moon should give the signal for the

commencement of their savage orgy.

For hours absolute quiet reigned in the little clearing,

except as it was broken by the discordant notes of brilliantly

feathered parrots, or the screeching and twittering of the

thousand jungle birds flitting ceaselessly amongst the vivid

orchids and flamboyant blossoms which festooned the myriad,

moss-covered branches of the forest kings.

At length as darkness settled upon the jungle the apes

commenced to bestir themselves, and soon they formed a great

circle about the earthen drum. The females and young squatted

in a thin line at the outer periphery of the circle, while

just in front of them ranged the adult males. Before the drum

sat three old females, each armed with a knotted branch fifteen

or eighteen inches in length.

Slowly and softly they began tapping upon the resounding

surface of the drum as the first faint rays of the ascending

moon silvered the encircling tree tops.

As the light in the amphitheater increased the females

augmented the frequency and force of their blows until presently

a wild, rhythmic din pervaded the great jungle for miles in

every direction. Huge, fierce brutes stopped in their hunting,

with up-pricked ears and raised heads, to listen to the dull

booming that betokened the Dum-Dum of the apes.

Occasionally one would raise his shrill scream or thunderous

roar in answering challenge to the savage din of the

anthropoids, but none came near to investigate or attack, for

the great apes, assembled in all the power of their numbers,

filled the breasts of their jungle neighbors with deep respect.

As the din of the drum rose to almost deafening volume

Kerchak sprang into the open space between the squatting

males and the drummers.

Standing erect he threw his head far back and looking full

into the eye of the rising moon he beat upon his breast with

his great hairy paws and emitted his fearful roaring shriek.

One--twice--thrice that terrifying cry rang out across the

teeming solitude of that unspeakably quick, yet unthinkably

dead, world.

Then, crouching, Kerchak slunk noiselessly around the

open circle, veering far away from the dead body lying before

the altar-drum, but, as he passed, keeping his little,

fierce, wicked, red eyes upon the corpse.

Another male then sprang into the arena, and, repeating

the horrid cries of his king, followed stealthily in his wake.

Another and another followed in quick succession until the

jungle reverberated with the now almost ceaseless notes of

their bloodthirsty screams.

It was the challenge and the hunt.

When all the adult males had joined in the thin line of

circling dancers the attack commenced.

Kerchak, seizing a huge club from the pile which lay at

hand for the purpose, rushed furiously upon the dead ape,

dealing the corpse a terrific blow, at the same time emitting

the growls and snarls of combat. The din of the drum was

now increased, as well as the frequency of the blows, and the

warriors, as each approached the victim of the hunt and

delivered his bludgeon blow, joined in the mad whirl of the

Death Dance.

Tarzan was one of the wild, leaping horde. His brown,

sweat-streaked, muscular body, glistening in the moonlight,

shone supple and graceful among the uncouth, awkward,

hairy brutes about him.

None was more stealthy in the mimic hunt, none more

ferocious than he in the wild ferocity of the attack, none

who leaped so high into the air in the Dance of Death.

As the noise and rapidity of the drumbeats increased the

dancers apparently became intoxicated with the wild rhythm

and the savage yells. Their leaps and bounds increased, their

bared fangs dripped saliva, and their lips and breasts were

flecked with foam.

For half an hour the weird dance went on, until, at a sign

from Kerchak, the noise of the drums ceased, the female

drummers scampering hurriedly through the line of dancers

toward the outer rim of squatting spectators. Then, as one,

the males rushed headlong upon the thing which their terrific

blows had reduced to a mass of hairy pulp.

Flesh seldom came to their jaws in satisfying quantities, so

a fit finale to their wild revel was a taste of fresh killed meat,

and it was to the purpose of devouring their late enemy that

they now turned their attention.

Great fangs sunk into the carcass tearing away huge hunks,

the mightiest of the apes obtaining the choicest morsels,

while the weaker circled the outer edge of the fighting,

snarling pack awaiting their chance to dodge in and snatch a

dropped tidbit or filch a remaining bone before all was gone.

Tarzan, more than the apes, craved and needed flesh.

Descended from a race of meat eaters, never in his life, he

thought, had he once satisfied his appetite for animal food;

and so now his agile little body wormed its way far into the

mass of struggling, rending apes in an endeavor to obtain a

share which his strength would have been unequal to the task

of winning for him.

At his side hung the hunting knife of his unknown father

in a sheath self-fashioned in copy of one he had seen among

the pictures of his treasure-books.

At last he reached the fast disappearing feast and with his

sharp knife slashed off a more generous portion than he had

hoped for, an entire hairy forearm, where it protruded from

beneath the feet of the mighty Kerchak, who was so busily

engaged in perpetuating the royal prerogative of gluttony that

he failed to note the act of LESE-MAJESTE.

So little Tarzan wriggled out from beneath the struggling

mass, clutching his grisly prize close to his breast.

Among those circling futilely the outskirts of the banqueters

was old Tublat. He had been among the first at the feast,

but had retreated with a goodly share to eat in quiet, and was

now forcing his way back for more.

So it was that he spied Tarzan as the boy emerged from

the clawing, pushing throng with that hairy forearm hugged

firmly to his body.

Tublat's little, close-set, bloodshot, pig-eyes shot wicked

gleams of hate as they fell upon the object of his loathing. In

them, too, was greed for the toothsome dainty the boy carried.

But Tarzan saw his arch enemy as quickly, and divining

what the great beast would do he leaped nimbly away toward

the females and the young, hoping to hide himself among

them. Tublat, however, was close upon his heels, so that he

had no opportunity to seek a place of concealment, but saw

that he would be put to it to escape at all.

Swiftly he sped toward the surrounding trees and with an

agile bound gained a lower limb with one hand, and then,

transferring his burden to his teeth, he climbed rapidly

upward, closely followed by Tublat.

Up, up he went to the waving pinnacle of a lofty monarch

of the forest where his heavy pursuer dared not follow him.

There he perched, hurling taunts and insults at the raging,

foaming beast fifty feet below him.

And then Tublat went mad.

With horrifying screams and roars he rushed to the

ground, among the females and young, sinking his great

fangs into a dozen tiny necks and tearing great pieces from

the backs and breasts of the females who fell into his


In the brilliant moonlight Tarzan witnessed the whole mad

carnival of rage. He saw the females and the young scamper

to the safety of the trees. Then the great bulls in the center of

the arena felt the mighty fangs of their demented fellow, and

with one accord they melted into the black shadows of the

overhanging forest.

There was but one in the amphitheater beside Tublat, a

belated female running swiftly toward the tree where Tarzan

perched, and close behind her came the awful Tublat.

It was Kala, and as quickly as Tarzan saw that Tublat was

gaining on her he dropped with the rapidity of a falling

stone, from branch to branch, toward his foster mother.

Now she was beneath the overhanging limbs and close

above her crouched Tarzan, waiting the outcome of the race.

She leaped into the air grasping a low-hanging branch, but

almost over the head of Tublat, so nearly had he distanced

her. She should have been safe now but there was a rending,

tearing sound, the branch broke and precipitated her full

upon the head of Tublat, knocking him to the ground.

Both were up in an instant, but as quick as they had been

Tarzan had been quicker, so that the infuriated bull found

himself facing the man-child who stood between him and Kala.

Nothing could have suited the fierce beast better, and with

a roar of triumph he leaped upon the little Lord Greystoke.

But his fangs never closed in that nut brown flesh.

A muscular hand shot out and grasped the hairy throat,

and another plunged a keen hunting knife a dozen times into

the broad breast. Like lightning the blows fell, and only

ceased when Tarzan felt the limp form crumple beneath him.

As the body rolled to the ground Tarzan of the Apes

placed his foot upon the neck of his lifelong enemy and,

raising his eyes to the full moon, threw back his fierce young

head and voiced the wild and terrible cry of his people.

One by one the tribe swung down from their arboreal retreats

and formed a circle about Tarzan and his vanquished

foe. When they had all come Tarzan turned toward them.

"I am Tarzan," he cried. "I am a great killer. Let all

respect Tarzan of the Apes and Kala, his mother. There be

none among you as mighty as Tarzan. Let his enemies beware."

Looking full into the wicked, red eyes of Kerchak, the

young Lord Greystoke beat upon his mighty breast and

screamed out once more his shrill cry of defiance.



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