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TARZAN of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Chapter 11

"King of the Apes"

It was not yet dark when he reached the tribe, though he

stopped to exhume and devour the remains of the wild

boar he had cached the preceding day, and again to take

Kulonga's bow and arrows from the tree top in which he had

hidden them.

It was a well-laden Tarzan who dropped from the branches

into the midst of the tribe of Kerchak.

With swelling chest he narrated the glories of his adventure

and exhibited the spoils of conquest.

Kerchak grunted and turned away, for he was jealous of

this strange member of his band. In his little evil brain he

sought for some excuse to wreak his hatred upon Tarzan.

The next day Tarzan was practicing with his bow and arrows

at the first gleam of dawn. At first he lost nearly every

bolt he shot, but finally he learned to guide the little shafts

with fair accuracy, and ere a month had passed he was no

mean shot; but his proficiency had cost him nearly his entire

supply of arrows.

The tribe continued to find the hunting good in the vicinity

of the beach, and so Tarzan of the Apes varied his archery

practice with further investigation of his father's choice

though little store of books.

It was during this period that the young English lord found

hidden in the back of one of the cupboards in the cabin a

small metal box. The key was in the lock, and a few moments

of investigation and experimentation were rewarded

with the successful opening of the receptacle.

In it he found a faded photograph of a smooth faced

young man, a golden locket studded with diamonds, linked to

a small gold chain, a few letters and a small book.

Tarzan examined these all minutely.

The photograph he liked most of all, for the eyes were

smiling, and the face was open and frank. It was his father.

The locket, too, took his fancy, and he placed the chain

about his neck in imitation of the ornamentation he had seen

to be so common among the black men he had visited. The

brilliant stones gleamed strangely against his smooth, brown hide.

The letters he could scarcely decipher for he had learned

little or nothing of script, so he put them back in the box

with the photograph and turned his attention to the book.

This was almost entirely filled with fine script, but while

the little bugs were all familiar to him, their arrangement and

the combinations in which they occurred were strange, and

entirely incomprehensible.

Tarzan had long since learned the use of the dictionary,

but much to his sorrow and perplexity it proved of no avail

to him in this emergency. Not a word of all that was writ in

the book could he find, and so he put it back in the metal

box, but with a determination to work out the mysteries of it

later on.

Little did he know that this book held between its covers

the key to his origin--the answer to the strange riddle of

his strange life. It was the diary of John Clayton, Lord

Greystoke--kept in French, as had always been his custom.

Tarzan replaced the box in the cupboard, but always thereafter

he carried the features of the strong, smiling face of his

father in his heart, and in his head a fixed determination to

solve the mystery of the strange words in the little black book.

At present he had more important business in hand, for his

supply of arrows was exhausted, and he must needs journey

to the black men's village and renew it.

Early the following morning he set out, and, traveling

rapidly, he came before midday to the clearing. Once more he

took up his position in the great tree, and, as before, he saw

the women in the fields and the village street, and the cauldron

of bubbling poison directly beneath him.

For hours he lay awaiting his opportunity to drop down

unseen and gather up the arrows for which he had come; but

nothing now occurred to call the villagers away from their

homes. The day wore on, and still Tarzan of the Apes

crouched above the unsuspecting woman at the cauldron.

Presently the workers in the fields returned. The hunting

warriors emerged from the forest, and when all were within

the palisade the gates were closed and barred.

Many cooking pots were now in evidence about the village.

Before each hut a woman presided over a boiling stew, while

little cakes of plantain, and cassava puddings were to be seen

on every hand.

Suddenly there came a hail from the edge of the clearing.

Tarzan looked.

It was a party of belated hunters returning from the north,

and among them they half led, half carried a struggling animal.

As they approached the village the gates were thrown open

to admit them, and then, as the people saw the victim of the

chase, a savage cry rose to the heavens, for the quarry was a man.

As he was dragged, still resisting, into the village street, the

women and children set upon him with sticks and stones, and

Tarzan of the Apes, young and savage beast of the jungle,

wondered at the cruel brutality of his own kind.

Sheeta, the leopard, alone of all the jungle folk, tortured

his prey. The ethics of all the others meted a quick and

merciful death to their victims.

Tarzan had learned from his books but scattered fragments

of the ways of human beings.

When he had followed Kulonga through the forest he had

expected to come to a city of strange houses on wheels,

puffing clouds of black smoke from a huge tree stuck in the

roof of one of them--or to a sea covered with mighty floating

buildings which he had learned were called, variously, ships

and boats and steamers and craft.

He had been sorely disappointed with the poor little village

of the blacks, hidden away in his own jungle, and with not a

single house as large as his own cabin upon the distant beach.

He saw that these people were more wicked than his own apes,

and as savage and cruel as Sabor, herself. Tarzan began

to hold his own kind in low esteem.

Now they had tied their poor victim to a great post near

the center of the village, directly before Mbonga's hut, and

here they formed a dancing, yelling circle of warriors about

him, alive with flashing knives and menacing spears.

In a larger circle squatted the women, yelling and beating

upon drums. It reminded Tarzan of the Dum-Dum, and so he

knew what to expect. He wondered if they would spring upon

their meat while it was still alive. The Apes did not do such

things as that.

The circle of warriors about the cringing captive drew closer

and closer to their prey as they danced in wild and savage

abandon to the maddening music of the drums. Presently

a spear reached out and pricked the victim. It was the signal

for fifty others.

Eyes, ears, arms and legs were pierced; every inch of the

poor writhing body that did not cover a vital organ became

the target of the cruel lancers.

The women and children shrieked their delight.

The warriors licked their hideous lips in anticipation of the

feast to come, and vied with one another in the savagery and

loathsomeness of the cruel indignities with which they tortured

the still conscious prisoner.

Then it was that Tarzan of the Apes saw his chance. All eyes

were fixed upon the thrilling spectacle at the stake. The

light of day had given place to the darkness of a moonless night,

and only the fires in the immediate vicinity of the orgy had

been kept alight to cast a restless glow upon the restless scene.

Gently the lithe boy dropped to the soft earth at the end of

the village street. Quickly he gathered up the arrows--all of

them this time, for he had brought a number of long fibers to

bind them into a bundle.

Without haste he wrapped them securely, and then, ere he

turned to leave, the devil of capriciousness entered his heart.

He looked about for some hint of a wild prank to play upon

these strange, grotesque creatures that they might be again

aware of his presence among them.

Dropping his bundle of arrows at the foot of the tree, Tarzan

crept among the shadows at the side of the street until he

came to the same hut he had entered on the occasion of his

first visit.

Inside all was darkness, but his groping hands soon found

the object for which he sought, and without further delay he

turned again toward the door.

He had taken but a step, however, ere his quick ear caught

the sound of approaching footsteps immediately without. In

another instant the figure of a woman darkened the entrance

of the hut.

Tarzan drew back silently to the far wall, and his hand

sought the long, keen hunting knife of his father. The woman

came quickly to the center of the hut. There she paused for

an instant feeling about with her hands for the thing she

sought. Evidently it was not in its accustomed place, for she

explored ever nearer and nearer the wall where Tarzan stood.

So close was she now that the ape-man felt the animal

warmth of her naked body. Up went the hunting knife, and

then the woman turned to one side and soon a guttural "ah"

proclaimed that her search had at last been successful.

Immediately she turned and left the hut, and as she passed

through the doorway Tarzan saw that she carried a cooking

pot in her hand.

He followed closely after her, and as he reconnoitered

from the shadows of the doorway he saw that all the women

of the village were hastening to and from the various huts

with pots and kettles. These they were filling with water and

placing over a number of fires near the stake where the dying

victim now hung, an inert and bloody mass of suffering.

Choosing a moment when none seemed near, Tarzan hastened

to his bundle of arrows beneath the great tree at

the end of the village street. As on the former occasion he

overthrew the cauldron before leaping, sinuous and catlike,

into the lower branches of the forest giant.

Silently he climbed to a great height until he found a point

where he could look through a leafy opening upon the scene

beneath him.

The women were now preparing the prisoner for their cooking

pots, while the men stood about resting after the fatigue of

their mad revel. Comparative quiet reigned in the village.

Tarzan raised aloft the thing he had pilfered from the hut,

and, with aim made true by years of fruit and coconut throwing,

launched it toward the group of savages.

Squarely among them it fell, striking one of the warriors

full upon the head and felling him to the ground. Then it

rolled among the women and stopped beside the half-butchered

thing they were preparing to feast upon.

All gazed in consternation at it for an instant, and then,

with one accord, broke and ran for their huts.

It was a grinning human skull which looked up at them from

the ground. The dropping of the thing out of the open sky

was a miracle well aimed to work upon their superstitious fears.

Thus Tarzan of the Apes left them filled with terror at this

new manifestation of the presence of some unseen and unearthly

evil power which lurked in the forest about their village.

Later, when they discovered the overturned cauldron, and

that once more their arrows had been pilfered, it commenced

to dawn upon them that they had offended some great god by

placing their village in this part of the jungle without

propitiating him. From then on an offering of food was daily

placed below the great tree from whence the arrows had

disappeared in an effort to conciliate the mighty one.

But the seed of fear was deep sown, and had he but known

it, Tarzan of the Apes had laid the foundation for much

future misery for himself and his tribe.

That night he slept in the forest not far from the village,

and early the next morning set out slowly on his homeward

march, hunting as he traveled. Only a few berries and an

occasional grub worm rewarded his search, and he was half

famished when, looking up from a log he had been rooting

beneath, he saw Sabor, the lioness, standing in the center

of the trail not twenty paces from him.

The great yellow eyes were fixed upon him with a wicked

and baleful gleam, and the red tongue licked the longing lips

as Sabor crouched, worming her stealthy way with belly

flattened against the earth.

Tarzan did not attempt to escape. He welcomed the

opportunity for which, in fact, he had been searching for

days past, now that he was armed with something more than a

rope of grass.

Quickly he unslung his bow and fitted a well-daubed arrow,

and as Sabor sprang, the tiny missile leaped to meet her

in mid-air. At the same instant Tarzan of the Apes jumped

to one side, and as the great cat struck the ground beyond

him another death-tipped arrow sunk deep into Sabor's loin.

With a mighty roar the beast turned and charged once

more, only to be met with a third arrow full in one eye; but

this time she was too close to the ape-man for the latter to

sidestep the onrushing body.

Tarzan of the Apes went down beneath the great body of

his enemy, but with gleaming knife drawn and striking home.

For a moment they lay there, and then Tarzan realized that

the inert mass lying upon him was beyond power ever again

to injure man or ape.

With difficulty he wriggled from beneath the great weight,

and as he stood erect and gazed down upon the trophy of his

skill, a mighty wave of exultation swept over him.

With swelling breast, he placed a foot upon the body of his

powerful enemy, and throwing back his fine young head,

roared out the awful challenge of the victorious bull ape.

The forest echoed to the savage and triumphant paean.

Birds fell still, and the larger animals and beasts of prey

slunk stealthily away, for few there were of all the jungle

who sought for trouble with the great anthropoids.

And in London another Lord Greystoke was speaking to

HIS kind in the House of Lords, but none trembled at the

sound of his soft voice.

Sabor proved unsavory eating even to Tarzan of the Apes,

but hunger served as a most efficacious disguise to toughness

and rank taste, and ere long, with well-filled stomach, the

ape-man was ready to sleep again. First, however, he must

remove the hide, for it was as much for this as for any other

purpose that he had desired to destroy Sabor.

Deftly he removed the great pelt, for he had practiced

often on smaller animals. When the task was finished he

carried his trophy to the fork of a high tree, and there,

curling himself securely in a crotch, he fell into deep and

dreamless slumber.

What with loss of sleep, arduous exercise, and a full belly,

Tarzan of the Apes slept the sun around, awakening about

noon of the following day. He straightway repaired to the

carcass of Sabor, but was angered to find the bones picked

clean by other hungry denizens of the jungle.

Half an hour's leisurely progress through the forest

brought to sight a young deer, and before the little creature

knew that an enemy was near a tiny arrow had lodged in its neck.

So quickly the virus worked that at the end of a dozen

leaps the deer plunged headlong into the undergrowth, dead.

Again did Tarzan feast well, but this time he did not sleep.

Instead, he hastened on toward the point where he had left

the tribe, and when he had found them proudly exhibited the

skin of Sabor, the lioness.

"Look!" he cried, "Apes of Kerchak. See what Tarzan, the

mighty killer, has done. Who else among you has ever killed

one of Numa's people? Tarzan is mightiest amongst you for

Tarzan is no ape. Tarzan is--" But here he stopped, for in the

language of the anthropoids there was no word for man, and

Tarzan could only write the word in English; he could not

pronounce it.

The tribe had gathered about to look upon the proof of his

wondrous prowess, and to listen to his words.

Only Kerchak hung back, nursing his hatred and his rage.

Suddenly something snapped in the wicked little brain of

the anthropoid. With a frightful roar the great beast sprang

among the assemblage.

Biting, and striking with his huge hands, he killed and

maimed a dozen ere the balance could escape to the upper

terraces of the forest.

Frothing and shrieking in the insanity of his fury, Kerchak

looked about for the object of his greatest hatred, and there,

upon a near-by limb, he saw him sitting.

"Come down, Tarzan, great killer," cried Kerchak. "Come

down and feel the fangs of a greater! Do mighty fighters fly

to the trees at the first approach of danger?" And then Kerchak

emitted the volleying challenge of his kind.

Quietly Tarzan dropped to the ground. Breathlessly the

tribe watched from their lofty perches as Kerchak, still

roaring, charged the relatively puny figure.

Nearly seven feet stood Kerchak on his short legs. His

enormous shoulders were bunched and rounded with huge

muscles. The back of his short neck was as a single lump of

iron sinew which bulged beyond the base of his skull, so that

his head seemed like a small ball protruding from a huge

mountain of flesh.

His back-drawn, snarling lips exposed his great fighting

fangs, and his little, wicked, blood-shot eyes gleamed in

horrid reflection of his madness.

Awaiting him stood Tarzan, himself a mighty muscled animal,

but his six feet of height and his great rolling sinews

seemed pitifully inadequate to the ordeal which awaited them.

His bow and arrows lay some distance away where he had

dropped them while showing Sabor's hide to his fellow apes,

so that he confronted Kerchak now with only his hunting

knife and his superior intellect to offset the ferocious

strength of his enemy.

As his antagonist came roaring toward him, Lord Greystoke

tore his long knife from its sheath, and with an answering

challenge as horrid and bloodcurdling as that of the beast

he faced, rushed swiftly to meet the attack. He was too

shrewd to allow those long hairy arms to encircle him, and

just as their bodies were about to crash together, Tarzan of

the Apes grasped one of the huge wrists of his assailant, and,

springing lightly to one side, drove his knife to the hilt into

Kerchak's body, below the heart.

Before he could wrench the blade free again, the bull's

quick lunge to seize him in those awful arms had torn the

weapon from Tarzan's grasp.

Kerchak aimed a terrific blow at the ape-man's head with the

flat of his hand, a blow which, had it landed, might easily

have crushed in the side of Tarzan's skull.

The man was too quick, and, ducking beneath it, himself

delivered a mighty one, with clenched fist, in the pit of

Kerchak's stomach.

The ape was staggered, and what with the mortal wound in

his side had almost collapsed, when, with one mighty effort

he rallied for an instant--just long enough to enable him to

wrest his arm free from Tarzan's grasp and close in a terrific

clinch with his wiry opponent.

Straining the ape-man close to him, his great jaws sought

Tarzan's throat, but the young lord's sinewy fingers were at

Kerchak's own before the cruel fangs could close on the sleek

brown skin.

Thus they struggled, the one to crush out his opponent's

life with those awful teeth, the other to close forever the

windpipe beneath his strong grasp while he held the snarling

mouth from him.

The greater strength of the ape was slowly prevailing, and

the teeth of the straining beast were scarce an inch from

Tarzan's throat when, with a shuddering tremor, the great body

stiffened for an instant and then sank limply to the ground.

Kerchak was dead.

Withdrawing the knife that had so often rendered him

master of far mightier muscles than his own, Tarzan of the

Apes placed his foot upon the neck of his vanquished enemy,

and once again, loud through the forest rang the fierce, wild

cry of the conqueror.

And thus came the young Lord Greystoke into the kingship of the Apes.



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