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| Home | Reading Room TARZAN of the Apes

TARZAN of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Chapter 14

At the Mercy of the Jungle

After Clayton had plunged into the jungle, the sailors

--mutineers of the Arrow--fell into a discussion of their

next step; but on one point all were agreed--that they should

hasten to put off to the anchored Arrow, where they could at

least be safe from the spears of their unseen foe. And so,

while Jane Porter and Esmeralda were barricading themselves

within the cabin, the cowardly crew of cutthroats were pulling

rapidly for their ship in the two boats that had brought them ashore.

So much had Tarzan seen that day that his head was in a

whirl of wonder. But the most wonderful sight of all, to him,

was the face of the beautiful white girl.

Here at last was one of his own kind; of that he was positive.

And the young man and the two old men; they, too,

were much as he had pictured his own people to be.

But doubtless they were as ferocious and cruel as other

men he had seen. The fact that they alone of all the party

were unarmed might account for the fact that they had killed

no one. They might be very different if provided with weapons.

Tarzan had seen the young man pick up the fallen revolver

of the wounded Snipes and hide it away in his breast; and he

had also seen him slip it cautiously to the girl as she entered

the cabin door.

He did not understand anything of the motives behind all

that he had seen; but, somehow, intuitively he liked the

young man and the two old men, and for the girl he had a

strange longing which he scarcely understood. As for the big

black woman, she was evidently connected in some way to

the girl, and so he liked her, also.

For the sailors, and especially Snipes, he had developed a

great hatred. He knew by their threatening gestures and by

the expression upon their evil faces that they were enemies

of the others of the party, and so he decided to watch closely.

Tarzan wondered why the men had gone into the jungle,

nor did it ever occur to him that one could become lost in

that maze of undergrowth which to him was as simple as is the

main street of your own home town to you.

When he saw the sailors row away toward the ship, and

knew that the girl and her companion were safe in his cabin,

Tarzan decided to follow the young man into the jungle and

learn what his errand might be. He swung off rapidly in the

direction taken by Clayton, and in a short time heard faintly

in the distance the now only occasional calls of the Englishman

to his friends.

Presently Tarzan came up with the white man, who, almost

fagged, was leaning against a tree wiping the perspiration

from his forehead. The ape-man, hiding safe behind a

screen of foliage, sat watching this new specimen of his own

race intently.

At intervals Clayton called aloud and finally it came to

Tarzan that he was searching for the old man.

Tarzan was on the point of going off to look for them himself,

when he caught the yellow glint of a sleek hide moving

cautiously through the jungle toward Clayton.

It was Sheeta, the leopard. Now, Tarzan heard the soft

bending of grasses and wondered why the young white man

was not warned. Could it be he had failed to note the loud

warning? Never before had Tarzan known Sheeta to be so clumsy.

No, the white man did not hear. Sheeta was crouching for

the spring, and then, shrill and horrible, there rose from the

stillness of the jungle the awful cry of the challenging ape,

and Sheeta turned, crashing into the underbrush.

Clayton came to his feet with a start. His blood ran cold.

Never in all his life had so fearful a sound smote upon his

ears. He was no coward; but if ever man felt the icy fingers

of fear upon his heart, William Cecil Clayton, eldest son of

Lord Greystoke of England, did that day in the fastness of

the African jungle.

The noise of some great body crashing through the underbrush

so close beside him, and the sound of that bloodcurdling

shriek from above, tested Clayton's courage to the limit;

but he could not know that it was to that very voice he owed

his life, nor that the creature who hurled it forth was his own

cousin--the real Lord Greystoke.

The afternoon was drawing to a close, and Clayton,

disheartened and discouraged, was in a terrible quandary as to

the proper course to pursue; whether to keep on in search of

Professor Porter, at the almost certain risk of his own death

in the jungle by night, or to return to the cabin where he

might at least serve to protect Jane from the perils which

confronted her on all sides.

He did not wish to return to camp without her father; still

more, he shrank from the thought of leaving her alone and

unprotected in the hands of the mutineers of the Arrow,

or to the hundred unknown dangers of the jungle.

Possibly, too, he thought, the professor and Philander

might have returned to camp. Yes, that was more than likely.

At least he would return and see, before he continued what

seemed to be a most fruitless quest. And so he started,

stumbling back through the thick and matted underbrush in the

direction that he thought the cabin lay.

To Tarzan's surprise the young man was heading further

into the jungle in the general direction of Mbonga's village,

and the shrewd young ape-man was convinced that he was lost.

To Tarzan this was scarcely incomprehensible; his judgment

told him that no man would venture toward the village of the

cruel blacks armed only with a spear which, from the awkward

way in which he carried it, was evidently an unaccustomed

weapon to this white man. Nor was he following the

trail of the old men. That, they had crossed and left long

since, though it had been fresh and plain before Tarzan's eyes.

Tarzan was perplexed. The fierce jungle would make easy

prey of this unprotected stranger in a very short time if he

were not guided quickly to the beach.

Yes, there was Numa, the lion, even now, stalking the

white man a dozen paces to the right.

Clayton heard the great body paralleling his course, and

now there rose upon the evening air the beast's thunderous

roar. The man stopped with upraised spear and faced the

brush from which issued the awful sound. The shadows were

deepening, darkness was settling in.

God! To die here alone, beneath the fangs of wild beasts;

to be torn and rended; to feel the hot breath of the brute on

his face as the great paw crushed down up his breast!

For a moment all was still. Clayton stood rigid, with raised

spear. Presently a faint rustling of the bush apprised him of

the stealthy creeping of the thing behind. It was gathering for

the spring. At last he saw it, not twenty feet away--the long,

lithe, muscular body and tawny head of a huge black-maned lion.

The beast was upon its belly, moving forward very slowly.

As its eyes met Clayton's it stopped, and deliberately,

cautiously gathered its hind quarters behind it.

In agony the man watched, fearful to launch his spear,

powerless to fly.

He heard a noise in the tree above him. Some new danger,

he thought, but he dared not take his eyes from the yellow

green orbs before him. There was a sharp twang as of a broken

banjo-string, and at the same instant an arrow appeared

in the yellow hide of the crouching lion.

With a roar of pain and anger the beast sprang; but, somehow,

Clayton stumbled to one side, and as he turned again to

face the infuriated king of beasts, he was appalled at the sight

which confronted him. Almost simultaneously with the lion's

turning to renew the attack a half-naked giant dropped from

the tree above squarely on the brute's back.

With lightning speed an arm that was banded layers of iron

muscle encircled the huge neck, and the great beast was

raised from behind, roaring and pawing the air--raised as

easily as Clayton would have lifted a pet dog.

The scene he witnessed there in the twilight depths of the

African jungle was burned forever into the Englishman's brain.

The man before him was the embodiment of physical perfection

and giant strength; yet it was not upon these he depended

in his battle with the great cat, for mighty as were his

muscles, they were as nothing by comparison with Numa's.

To his agility, to his brain and to his long keen knife he

owed his supremacy.

His right arm encircled the lion's neck, while the left hand

plunged the knife time and again into the unprotected side

behind the left shoulder. The infuriated beast, pulled up and

backwards until he stood upon his hind legs, struggled

impotently in this unnatural position.

Had the battle been of a few seconds' longer duration the

outcome might have been different, but it was all accomplished

so quickly that the lion had scarce time to recover from the

confusion of its surprise ere it sank lifeless to the ground.

Then the strange figure which had vanquished it stood

erect upon the carcass, and throwing back the wild and

handsome head, gave out the fearsome cry which a few moments

earlier had so startled Clayton.

Before him he saw the figure of a young man, naked except

for a loin cloth and a few barbaric ornaments about

arms and legs; on the breast a priceless diamond locket

gleaming against a smooth brown skin.

The hunting knife had been returned to its homely sheath,

and the man was gathering up his bow and quiver from

where he had tossed them when he leaped to attack the lion.

Clayton spoke to the stranger in English, thanking him for

his brave rescue and complimenting him on the wondrous

strength and dexterity he had displayed, but the only answer

was a steady stare and a faint shrug of the mighty shoulders,

which might betoken either disparagement of the service

rendered, or ignorance of Clayton's language.

When the bow and quiver had been slung to his back the

wild man, for such Clayton now thought him, once more

drew his knife and deftly carved a dozen large strips of meat

from the lion's carcass. Then, squatting upon his haunches,

he proceeded to eat, first motioning Clayton to join him.

The strong white teeth sank into the raw and dripping flesh

in apparent relish of the meal, but Clayton could not bring

himself to share the uncooked meat with his strange host;

instead he watched him, and presently there dawned upon him

the conviction that this was Tarzan of the Apes, whose notice

he had seen posted upon the cabin door that morning.

If so he must speak English.

Again Clayton attempted speech with the ape-man; but the

replies, now vocal, were in a strange tongue, which resembled

the chattering of monkeys mingled with the growling of some

wild beast.

No, this could not be Tarzan of the Apes, for it was very

evident that he was an utter stranger to English.

When Tarzan had completed his repast he rose and, pointing

a very different direction from that which Clayton had

been pursuing, started off through the jungle toward the point

he had indicated.

Clayton, bewildered and confused, hesitated to follow him,

for he thought he was but being led more deeply into the

mazes of the forest; but the ape-man, seeing him disinclined

to follow, returned, and, grasping him by the coat, dragged

him along until he was convinced that Clayton understood what

was required of him. Then he left him to follow voluntarily.

The Englishman, finally concluding that he was a prisoner,

saw no alternative open but to accompany his captor, and

thus they traveled slowly through the jungle while the sable

mantle of the impenetrable forest night fell about them, and

the stealthy footfalls of padded paws mingled with the breaking

of twigs and the wild calls of the savage life that Clayton

felt closing in upon him.

Suddenly Clayton heard the faint report of a firearm--a

single shot, and then silence.

In the cabin by the beach two thoroughly terrified women

clung to each other as they crouched upon the low bench in

the gathering darkness.

The Negress sobbed hysterically, bemoaning the evil day

that had witnessed her departure from her dear Maryland,

while the white girl, dry eyed and outwardly calm, was torn

by inward fears and forebodings. She feared not more for

herself than for the three men whom she knew to be wandering

in the abysmal depths of the savage jungle, from which

she now heard issuing the almost incessant shrieks and roars,

barkings and growlings of its terrifying and fearsome denizens

as they sought their prey.

And now there came the sound of a heavy body brushing

against the side of the cabin. She could hear the great padded

paws upon the ground outside. For an instant, all was silence;

even the bedlam of the forest died to a faint murmur. Then

she distinctly heard the beast outside sniffing at the door, not

two feet from where she crouched. Instinctively the girl

shuddered, and shrank closer to the black woman.

"Hush!" she whispered. "Hush, Esmeralda," for the

woman's sobs and groans seemed to have attracted the thing

that stalked there just beyond the thin wall.

A gentle scratching sound was heard on the door. The

brute tried to force an entrance; but presently this ceased,

and again she heard the great pads creeping stealthily around

the cabin. Again they stopped--beneath the window on

which the terrified eyes of the girl now glued themselves.

"God!" she murmured, for now, silhouetted against the

moonlit sky beyond, she saw framed in the tiny square of the

latticed window the head of a huge lioness. The gleaming

eyes were fixed upon her in intent ferocity.

"Look, Esmeralda!" she whispered. "For God's sake, what

shall we do? Look! Quick! The window!"

Esmeralda, cowering still closer to her mistress, took one

frightened glance toward the little square of moonlight, just

as the lioness emitted a low, savage snarl.

The sight that met the poor woman's eyes was too much

for the already overstrung nerves.

"Oh, Gaberelle!" she shrieked, and slid to the floor an inert

and senseless mass.

For what seemed an eternity the great brute stood with its

forepaws upon the sill, glaring into the little room. Presently

it tried the strength of the lattice with its great talons.

The girl had almost ceased to breathe, when, to her relief,

the head disappeared and she heard the brute's footsteps leaving

the window. But now they came to the door again, and

once more the scratching commenced; this time with increasing

force until the great beast was tearing at the massive panels

in a perfect frenzy of eagerness to seize its defenseless victims.

Could Jane have known the immense strength of that door,

built piece by piece, she would have felt less fear of the

lioness reaching her by this avenue.

Little did John Clayton imagine when he fashioned that

crude but mighty portal that one day, twenty years later, it

would shield a fair American girl, then unborn, from the

teeth and talons of a man-eater.

For fully twenty minutes the brute alternately sniffed and

tore at the door, occasionally giving voice to a wild, savage

cry of baffled rage. At length, however, she gave up the

attempt, and Jane heard her returning toward the window,

beneath which she paused for an instant, and then launched

her great weight against the timeworn lattice.

The girl heard the wooden rods groan beneath the impact; but

they held, and the huge body dropped back to the ground below.

Again and again the lioness repeated these tactics, until

finally the horrified prisoner within saw a portion of the

lattice give way, and in an instant one great paw and the head

of the animal were thrust within the room.

Slowly the powerful neck and shoulders spread the bars

apart, and the lithe body protruded farther and farther into

the room.

As in a trance, the girl rose, her hand upon her breast,

wide eyes staring horror-stricken into the snarling face of the

beast scarce ten feet from her. At her feet lay the prostrate

form of the Negress. If she could but arouse her, their combined

efforts might possibly avail to beat back the fierce and

bloodthirsty intruder.

Jane stooped to grasp the black woman by the shoulder.

Roughly she shook her.

"Esmeralda! Esmeralda!" she cried. "Help me, or we are lost."

Esmeralda opened her eyes. The first object they

encountered was the dripping fangs of the hungry lioness.

With a horrified scream the poor woman rose to her hands and

knees, and in this position scurried across the room, shrieking:

"O Gaberelle! O Gaberelle!" at the top of her lungs.

Esmeralda weighed some two hundred and eighty pounds,

and her extreme haste, added to her extreme corpulency,

produced a most amazing result when Esmeralda elected to

travel on all fours.

For a moment the lioness remained quiet with intense gaze

directed upon the flitting Esmeralda, whose goal appeared to

be the cupboard, into which she attempted to propel her huge

bulk; but as the shelves were but nine or ten inches apart, she

only succeeded in getting her head in; whereupon, with a final

screech, which paled the jungle noises into insignificance, she

fainted once again.

With the subsidence of Esmeralda the lioness renewed her

efforts to wriggle her huge bulk through the weakening lattice.

The girl, standing pale and rigid against the farther wall,

sought with ever-increasing terror for some loophole of escape.

Suddenly her hand, tight-pressed against her bosom, felt

the hard outline of the revolver that Clayton had left with

her earlier in the day.

Quickly she snatched it from its hiding-place, and, leveling

it full at the lioness's face, pulled the trigger.

There was a flash of flame, the roar of the discharge, and

an answering roar of pain and anger from the beast.

Jane Porter saw the great form disappear from the window,

and then she, too, fainted, the revolver falling at her side.

But Sabor was not killed. The bullet had but inflicted a

painful wound in one of the great shoulders. It was the

surprise at the blinding flash and the deafening roar that had

caused her hasty but temporary retreat.

In another instant she was back at the lattice, and with

renewed fury was clawing at the aperture, but with lessened

effect, since the wounded member was almost useless.

She saw her prey--the two women--lying senseless upon

the floor. There was no longer any resistance to be overcome.

Her meat lay before her, and Sabor had only to worm her

way through the lattice to claim it.

Slowly she forced her great bulk, inch by inch, through the

opening. Now her head was through, now one great forearm

and shoulder.

Carefully she drew up the wounded member to insinuate it

gently beyond the tight pressing bars.

A moment more and both shoulders through, the long,

sinuous body and the narrow hips would glide quickly after.

It was on this sight that Jane Porter again opened her eyes.



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