The Village of Torture
As the little expedition of sailors toiled through the dense
jungle searching for signs of Jane Porter, the futility of
their venture became more and more apparent, but the grief
of the old man and the hopeless eyes of the young Englishman
prevented the kind hearted D'Arnot from turning back.
He thought that there might be a bare possibility of finding
her body, or the remains of it, for he was positive that she
had been devoured by some beast of prey. He deployed his
men into a skirmish line from the point where Esmeralda had
been found, and in this extended formation they pushed their
way, sweating and panting, through the tangled vines and
creepers. It was slow work. Noon found them but a few
miles inland. They halted for a brief rest then, and after
pushing on for a short distance further one of the men
discovered a well-marked trail.
It was an old elephant track, and D'Arnot after consulting
with Professor Porter and Clayton decided to follow it.
The path wound through the jungle in a northeasterly
direction, and along it the column moved in single file.
Lieutenant D'Arnot was in the lead and moving at a quick
pace, for the trail was comparatively open. Immediately
behind him came Professor Porter, but as he could not keep
pace with the younger man D'Arnot was a hundred yards in
advance when suddenly a half dozen black warriors arose
D'Arnot gave a warning shout to his column as the blacks
closed on him, but before he could draw his revolver he had
been pinioned and dragged into the jungle.
His cry had alarmed the sailors and a dozen of them
sprang forward past Professor Porter, running up the trail to
their officer's aid.
They did not know the cause of his outcry, only that it was
a warning of danger ahead. They had rushed past the spot
where D'Arnot had been seized when a spear hurled from the
jungle transfixed one of the men, and then a volley of arrows
fell among them.
Raising their rifles they fired into the underbrush in the
direction from which the missiles had come.
By this time the balance of the party had come up, and
volley after volley was fired toward the concealed foe. It was
these shots that Tarzan and Jane Porter had heard.
Lieutenant Charpentier, who had been bringing up the rear
of the column, now came running to the scene, and on hearing
the details of the ambush ordered the men to follow him,
and plunged into the tangled vegetation.
In an instant they were in a hand-to-hand fight with some
fifty black warriors of Mbonga's village. Arrows and bullets
flew thick and fast.
Queer African knives and French gun butts mingled for a
moment in savage and bloody duels, but soon the natives fled
into the jungle, leaving the Frenchmen to count their losses.
Four of the twenty were dead, a dozen others were
wounded, and Lieutenant D'Arnot was missing. Night was
falling rapidly, and their predicament was rendered doubly
worse when they could not even find the elephant trail which
they had been following.
There was but one thing to do, make camp where they
were until daylight. Lieutenant Charpentier ordered a
clearing made and a circular abatis of underbrush constructed
about the camp.
This work was not completed until long after dark, the
men building a huge fire in the center of the clearing to give
them light to work by.
When all was safe as possible against attack of wild beasts
and savage men, Lieutenant Charpentier placed sentries
about the little camp and the tired and hungry men threw
themselves upon the ground to sleep.
The groans of the wounded, mingled with the roaring and
growling of the great beasts which the noise and firelight had
attracted, kept sleep, except in its most fitful form, from the
tired eyes. It was a sad and hungry party that lay through the
long night praying for dawn.
The blacks who had seized D'Arnot had not waited to participate
in the fight which followed, but instead had dragged their
prisoner a little way through the jungle and then struck
the trail further on beyond the scene of the fighting in which
their fellows were engaged.
They hurried him along, the sounds of battle growing fainter
and fainter as they drew away from the contestants until there
suddenly broke upon D'Arnot's vision a good-sized clearing
at one end of which stood a thatched and palisaded village.
It was now dusk, but the watchers at the gate saw the
approaching trio and distinguished one as a prisoner ere they
reached the portals.
A cry went up within the palisade. A great throng of
women and children rushed out to meet the party.
And then began for the French officer the most terrifying
experience which man can encounter upon earth--the reception
of a white prisoner into a village of African cannibals.
To add to the fiendishness of their cruel savagery was the
poignant memory of still crueler barbarities practiced upon
them and theirs by the white officers of that arch hypocrite,
Leopold II of Belgium, because of whose atrocities they had
fled the Congo Free State--a pitiful remnant of what once
had been a mighty tribe.
They fell upon D'Arnot tooth and nail, beating him with
sticks and stones and tearing at him with claw-like hands.
Every vestige of clothing was torn from him, and the merciless
blows fell upon his bare and quivering flesh. But not
once did the Frenchman cry out in pain. He breathed a silent
prayer that he be quickly delivered from his torture.
But the death he prayed for was not to be so easily had.
Soon the warriors beat the women away from their prisoner.
He was to be saved for nobler sport than this, and the first
wave of their passion having subsided they contented themselves
with crying out taunts and insults and spitting upon him.
Presently they reached the center of the village. There
D'Arnot was bound securely to the great post from which no
live man had ever been released.
A number of the women scattered to their several huts to
fetch pots and water, while others built a row of fires on
which portions of the feast were to be boiled while the balance
would be slowly dried in strips for future use, as they
expected the other warriors to return with many prisoners.
The festivities were delayed awaiting the return of the warriors
who had remained to engage in the skirmish with the white men,
so that it was quite late when all were in the village,
and the dance of death commenced to circle around the
Half fainting from pain and exhaustion, D'Arnot watched from
beneath half-closed lids what seemed but the vagary of delirium,
or some horrid nightmare from which he must soon awake.
The bestial faces, daubed with color--the huge mouths and
flabby hanging lips--the yellow teeth, sharp filed--the rolling,
demon eyes--the shining naked bodies--the cruel spears.
Surely no such creatures really existed upon earth--he must
indeed be dreaming.
The savage, whirling bodies circled nearer. Now a spear
sprang forth and touched his arm. The sharp pain and the
feel of hot, trickling blood assured him of the awful
reality of his hopeless position.
Another spear and then another touched him. He closed
his eyes and held his teeth firm set--he would not cry out.
He was a soldier of France, and he would teach these
beasts how an officer and a gentleman died.
Tarzan of the Apes needed no interpreter to translate the
story of those distant shots. With Jane Porter's kisses still
warm upon his lips he was swinging with incredible rapidity
through the forest trees straight toward the village of Mbonga.
He was not interested in the location of the encounter, for
he judged that that would soon be over. Those who were
killed he could not aid, those who escaped would not need
It was to those who had neither been killed or escaped that
he hastened. And he knew that he would find them by the
great post in the center of Mbonga village.
Many times had Tarzan seen Mbonga's black raiding parties
return from the northward with prisoners, and always
were the same scenes enacted about that grim stake,
beneath the flaring light of many fires.
He knew, too, that they seldom lost much time before
consummating the fiendish purpose of their captures.
He doubted that he would arrive in time to do more
On he sped. Night had fallen and he traveled high along
the upper terrace where the gorgeous tropic moon lighted the
dizzy pathway through the gently undulating branches of the
Presently he caught the reflection of a distant blaze. It lay
to the right of his path. It must be the light from the camp
fire the two men had built before they were attacked--Tarzan
knew nothing of the presence of the sailors.
So sure was Tarzan of his jungle knowledge that he did not
turn from his course, but passed the glare at a distance of a
half mile. It was the camp fire of the Frenchmen.
In a few minutes more Tarzan swung into the trees above
Mbonga's village. Ah, he was not quite too late! Or, was he?
He could not tell. The figure at the stake was very still, yet
the black warriors were but pricking it.
Tarzan knew their customs. The death blow had not been
struck. He could tell almost to a minute how far the dance
In another instant Mbonga's knife would sever one of the
victim's ears--that would mark the beginning of the end, for
very shortly after only a writhing mass of mutilated flesh
There would still be life in it, but death then would be the
only charity it craved.
The stake stood forty feet from the nearest tree. Tarzan
coiled his rope. Then there rose suddenly above the fiendish
cries of the dancing demons the awful challenge of the ape-man.
The dancers halted as though turned to stone.
The rope sped with singing whir high above the heads of
the blacks. It was quite invisible in the flaring lights
of the camp fires.
D'Arnot opened his eyes. A huge black, standing directly before
him, lunged backward as though felled by an invisible hand.
Struggling and shrieking, his body, rolling from side to
side, moved quickly toward the shadows beneath the trees.
The blacks, their eyes protruding in horror, watched spellbound.
Once beneath the trees, the body rose straight into the air,
and as it disappeared into the foliage above, the terrified
negroes, screaming with fright, broke into a mad race for the
D'Arnot was left alone.
He was a brave man, but he had felt the short hairs bristle
upon the nape of his neck when that uncanny cry rose upon
As the writhing body of the black soared, as though by
unearthly power, into the dense foliage of the forest, D'Arnot
felt an icy shiver run along his spine, as though death had
risen from a dark grave and laid a cold and clammy finger on
As D'Arnot watched the spot where the body had entered
the tree he heard the sounds of movement there.
The branches swayed as though under the weight of a
man's body--there was a crash and the black came sprawling
to earth again,--to lie very quietly where he had fallen.
Immediately after him came a white body, but this one
D'Arnot saw a clean-limbed young giant emerge from the
shadows into the firelight and come quickly toward him.
What could it mean? Who could it be? Some new creature
of torture and destruction, doubtless.
D'Arnot waited. His eyes never left the face of the advancing
man. Nor did the other's frank, clear eyes waver beneath
D'Arnot's fixed gaze.
D'Arnot was reassured, but still without much hope,
though he felt that that face could not mask a cruel heart.
Without a word Tarzan of the Apes cut the bonds which
held the Frenchman. Weak from suffering and loss of blood,
he would have fallen but for the strong arm that caught him.
He felt himself lifted from the ground. There was a sensation
as of flying, and then he lost consciousness.
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