TARZAN THE FEARLESS
CHAPTER I: The Safari
Night was falling in the upper reaches of the Congo and the great meat-eaters of the jungle stretched and yawned. Soon they would start their never-ending search for food; soon the age-old jungle battle for existence would begin again.
In a tiny glade, closely bound on every side by the blackness of primeval jungle, a tiny safari gathered around a brightly burning fire. This little fire was their one comfort in the endless doubt that suddenly assailed them.
They had good reason to stop, look and listen at the slightest sound.
While Doctor Brooks had been leading the party his quiet confidence had made the many dangers insignificant. Now that he was gone the mysteries of the expedition assumed a fearsome aspect.
For Doctor Brooks, their leader, had mysteriously disappeared.
Nor did they know where he had vanished, who had captured him, or what had happened at all. His daughter Mary, huddled close to the fire by the side of her sweetheart, Bob Drake, wondered if her father still lived. Deep in his heart Bob found little hope for her. Across the fire, Jeff Gaines and his partner, Nick Jaimo, the guides of the party, glumly stared into the flames, pausing now and then for whispered conferences. Between them, the Arab Abdul sat cleaning his rifle.
Now that Doctor Brooks had gone, there were not three people in the safari who trusted each other. At the very start the mere fact that the Doctor would not announce the destination of his expedition had prevented the hiring of any worth-while guides and the half-whispered tales of lost tribes and buried treasure had fanned the avarice of the two they had secured to a point where they made little effort to hide it.
Front he very dawn of civilization, down through the years until today, there have been whispers of lost tribes and cities in the untraveled wastes of the Dark Continent. The Queen of Sheba hailed from some mighty kingdom now lost in Africa's forests, and the Legions of the Roman Caesars found worthy foemen and fair countrysides where there is nothing but desert now.
Doctor Brooks had more than the usual amount of faith in the existence of the lost civilization he was attempting to trace. Over long years of study he had found stories of this lost land in the folk tales of all the native tribes inhabiting the upper reaches of the Congo, and a year or so before he had come into possession of a beautifully drawn map of the supposed country. That map had been made by a Portuguese slaver who had the soul of an artist.
According to the map, which up to this point had been astonishingly accurate, the range of high hills that loomed only a few miles ahead of the little party formed the western boundary of the lost nation. A fast-running stream -- according to the map, infested with crocodiles -- raced through a tiny gorge widening here and there into the pools that were filled with the savage terrors of all African rivers. Before darkness had fallen, Brooks had scaled a near-by tree, and, coming down, had told his daughter and her lover that he believed that he had seen the gorge through which the river ran.
That was the last they saw of him. He turned around to go to his tent and write the diary that he kept so carefully. But when they came to call him for the evening meal he had gone. Not a sound had been made and the frightened glances of the guides and their Arab servants showed that they too shared in the fear and dread.
Nor was that the only fear that troubled the minds of the Arab porters.
Not so many months ago they had formed part of the slaving band of an Arab sheik who, possibly through ignorance, had dared to seek his victims among the Waziri who called the mighty Tarzan their leader. None of them would ever forget the huge white figure that swooped down from the treetops into their camp, snatched up the Sheik and a few minutes later hurled back his twisted body from the shadows above. Nor would they soon forget the blood-tipped assegais of the Waziri who rescued their fellows and terribly avenged those who had died. They were now in the outskirts of the Waziri country, and though Tarzan was known to be just when merit needed to be rewarded, and this time their mission was fair enough, they still shivered each time that a bough rustled. Each shadow in the jungle seemed to take the shape of Tarzan or of Jad-Bel-Jar, his famous Golden Lion.
The party had not traveled more than a half-day's march into the Waziri country before a tall-plumed warrior reported their coming to Tarzan. The mighty white Jungle King was resting in the crotch of a mighty tree above their camp when he saw muffled figures approaching.
CHAPTER II: The Lost Land of
The Lost Land of Zar was no mystery to Tarzan. Many times he had perched high in the ruins of their temple and watched the savage ceremonies.
Once Tarzan had dropped lightly to the temple floor and marveled at the ugliness of the great idol and the shining beauty of the lustrous green stones that tipped his mighty hand and shone in the moonlight. Now he even recognized the towering figure of Eltar, the High Priest, as he directed the temple guards.
Tarzan had seen the dark-eyed High Priestess, too -- but not with the same eyes she had for him. The woman had fallen in love with the Ape-man -- and she would think of his stalwart figure long after Tarzan had forgotten her.
Eltar was a clever man, and he too had been watching this band of unknowns approaching the boundary of his land. He had seen that Doctor Brooks was the leader of the party and it was his plan to abduct the Doctor and take him back to the temple of Zar.
If, by some chance, the secret of the hidden nation should be discovered, Eltar would then have the life of the Doctor to trade for the secret. That was but a dim idea, however, for deep in his mind lurked the mad zeal that made him priest of Zar, the blood-loving deity of the lost land, and Doctor Brooks was chosen for the next sacrifice.
For more than an hour the temple guards lay hidden in the jungle. One of them would never see his land again, for a dreaded mamba, deadliest of all snakes, swung gently from a tree and flicked the man's throat with his fangs. Like lightning, the sword of another guard pierced the heart of the doomed man, and he sank to the ground with a gentle moan that was lost in the sighings of the boughs stirring gently in the evening wind.
Tarzan watched tirelessly from his hidden perch in the tree.
Eltar, seeing the Doctor go into his tent, gave the signal. Like phantoms three of the guards moved silently up to the tent. The Doctor was poring over his diary. Before he had any chance to utter a warning shout, the smelly folds of a guardsman's robe enveloped his head and throat. The folds tightened until all went black. The shadows went away from the tent.
Tied hand and foot he was carried through the jungle and up the rocky path that led to the tumbling stream. High on the peak of the first hill a huge boulder seemed to block the pathway. Two of the guards leaned against the bottom left-hand corner of the rock. It turned easily on a hidden pivot, and the party passed through the opening into the Sacred Land of Zar.
Tarzan did not bother to follow. It was no concern of his. He had not asked the Doctor to invade his jungle and if the white man, whose race Tarzan had learned to fear and distrust, could not hear the thousand noises that would have betrayed the coming of the intruders to the acute senses of the Ape-man, then it was no fault of his. Rather, he preferred to stay and watch the actions of the Arab safari, whom he recognized as the followers of the old Sheik Ali Mahommet, the erstwhile scourge of the Waziri, and in that recognition Abdul's death warrant was signed.
For a few moments Tarzan toyed with the idea of killing Abdul at once. However, it would wait, and possibly through his childhood spent with the great apes, he had acquired some of their curiosity. Stretching himself, he glanced at his grass rope and other weapons and decided to leave all but his knife in the sheltering fork of the tree. Then, noiselessly as a shadow, he drifted through the treetops of the trail of the men of Zar.
Doctor Brooks regained consciousness as he was being carried up the rocky trail to the pass. But at his first movement a guard struck him smartly over the head with the butt end of his spear. When he regained consciousness again he was lying, free of his bonds, on a stone slab in a dungeon of a building older than any type known to the famous archeologist. Outside the wrought-iron gate of his dungeon a huge guard sat on a wooden slab tossing an ivory ball into a pair of horn cups that he held in either hand.
When Doctor Brooks tried to move, his head felt as if a thousand planets were colliding inside it. His groan attracted the attention of the guard, who called to an unseen companion, apparently telling him that the captive had awakened. In a few moments Eltar arrived, escorted by a brace of huge Negro guards and a scattering of under-priests. They were talking in an unknown tongue, but one that held more than a trace of Arabic -- not the muddled language of the Arab of today, but the pure Arabic that was spoken in the days when the pyramids were still dreams that were some day to come true and astonish the world ever afterward.
CHAPTER III: The Sacrifice
Eltar alone of all his company, spoke the tongue of the native tribes in the outer world, and he accosted Doctor Brooks.
"What is your mission here?" Eltar asked.
Brooks sensed his peril but made the mistake of thinking that it was the hidden treasure of Zar that Eltar principally wished to protect.
"Nothing, O mighty priest," he told him, "but the opportunity to study the legends of your race and take your story back to the men of my country."
The priest's face clouded. For a moment he forgot that his captive did not understand the language of Zar, and railed at the Doctor in the tongue of forgotten centuries.
But Doctor Brooks realized that he had made a grave mistake, for the priest's tone told volumes.
Eltar was very brief, using now a language Doctor Brooks understood.
"You must die," he told the Doctor, "as all have died who have discovered the secrets of Zar. When the sun shows above the outer hills tomorrow, you will die before the great altar."
Motioning to his guards, he left the chamber and the American scientist tried to compose himself for the death that he felt was now certainly to come.
Only one regret filled his mind -- the simple fact that he could not say goodbye to the daughter he loved and to the fine youngster who returned her love.
All through the weary hours of the night he lay and wondered whether they would reach civilization in safety. When the morning light began to filter through the grilled window of his cell, he was almost glad that the night of terrible waiting was over.
Soon the guards came to fetch him. His clothes were stripped from his back and he was draped in a long black robe fashioned of some kind of fleece.
It was the sacrificial costume!
He was dragged roughly down an unending maze of corridors that finally gave forth upon the wide expanse of the main temple. Almost hidden in the shadows of the farther end Doctor Brooks could see the great idol of Zar.
In spite of impending death, the Doctor felt a thrill as he realized and knew in his own mind that his dreams and faith had been completely vindicated.
"There IS a Land of Zar!" he murmured to himself.
Around the base of the idol were crowds of worshippers. First came Eltar, and next to him a selected few who took their places according to merit on the steps leading up the altar that was placed between the huge feet of the idol. Below them were the ranks of the lesser priests, with the dancing girls and the temple attendants dressed in veils that barely covered their beautiful bodies. Even with death a few short moments away, Doctor Brooks marveled to see that there was little of the Negro in their racial background, and that they resembled nothing so much as those beautiful dancing girls who dazzle the visitors to Cairo and other great Egyptian cities of today.
The common people seemed to have fewer rights in this lost land of Zar than they appear to have elsewhere, for they were crowded into the farthest corners. Though there were only some few thousand of them at best, they seemed to Doctor Brooks an endless throng standing there only in the anticipated pleasure of seeing the prisoner die a painful death.
When a brave and clever man knows that there is no possible chance of escape from death, he is able to meet it in about the same way that he would accept a luncheon date in happier days. The determined and courageous manner of the doomed scientist even aroused unwilling admiration in the breasts of the blood-thirsty worshippers of Zar.
Little time was wasted. Through a hastily formed lane between the massed host of his enemies, the guards dragged Doctor Brooks to the foot of the altar where , with a few mumbled words, he was turned over to Eltar's two highest assistants.
The altar was a long flat slab of stone with grooves to receive the arms and ankles of the victim. Doctor Brooks was placed on the slab and his ankles and arms forced into the grooves.
One of the officiating priests washed his throat and breast with a kind of fibrous sacrificial mop soaked in water, and stepped back to make room for Eltar. The long bare arms of the priest slowly rose above his head. The first rays of the sun, slanting in through a barred opening high aove the altar, struck redly on the shining blade in his hand.
Suddenly, above the furtive hum of the mob of onlookers, a shrill scream split the silence and a flash of white limbs swooped down from the shadows above the altar. One mighty arm brushed Eltar from his path as though he were a child and, seizing the long sacrificial knife, the newcomer laid about him to such good effect that three guards lay dead before they could escape the flashing arc of the blade.
It was Tarzan, as fearless as a lion, sprung suddenly into action.
Doctor Brooks realized that the millionth chance had turned in his favor, and that there was a possibility of escape, slim though it still seemed to be.
Two of the temple guards rushed the newcomer. One fell in an ugly heap. The other, seized in mighty hands, hurtled, a broken mass of flesh and bones, into the crowd that milled around the foot of the altar stairs.
Doctor Brooks, pressed against the altar to give his new friend room to swing the massive blade, felt his hopes die as he saw the knife twisted out of the hands of his rescuer while the body of the guard rolled down the altar steps.
Then, before Doctor Brooks had time to think, the white invader reached for him, swung him over his shoulder as easily as though he were a child and vanished into the shadows above the altar, finding finger- and foot-holds where none but an ape or fly might climb.
A little later, in a cave where Tarzan the ape-man was accustomed to rest himself when his travels led him to this neighborhood, Doctor Brooks tried to thank his rescuer. Tarzan understood but two languages, Wizard and that of the great apes, and though he sensed what the gray-haired man was trying to tell him, he could not understand the words.
Realizing that his own hope of escape and the chances of rescuing the balance of his safari lay in their being advised of his rescue, Doctor Brooks wrote a brief outline of the whole story on a couple of sheets he tore out of his notebook and gave them to Tarzan, together with a snapshot of Mary that had been taken at Durango, the coast town from which the exhibition started.
Tarzan, who understood far more than Doctor Brooks thought he did, realized that the likeness on the scrap of bark (for he thought it to be) was that of the girl in the party to which this old man belonged. It was easy to guess from the man's gestures that he wished Tarzan to give the scraps of bark to the white girl.
Tarzan would be happy to do that errand!
With a smile that showed his strong white teeth, Tarzan slipped into the jungle, and though Brooks strained his eyes he could see no sign of him once the green branches closed over his glistening white skin.
This night had been one of awful terror for Mary and Bob Drake. Bob, though a splendid fellow and a fine athlete, knew nothing of the jungle and little of the ways of the mysterious Arab.
They did not put any faith in the two white guides, and, in the morning when it was obvious that the leader of the expedition had disappeared, Jeff Gaines began to assume airs that he would never have dared had Doctor Brooks been present. It was a different matter now. Fooling with a couple of tenderfeet was one thing, whereas trifling with a man whose fame as a scientist and archaeologist was known around the globe was another.
Gaines had heard, through the characteristic carelessness of Doctor Brooks, that the idol of Zar was supposed to have hands of pure emerald and he and his equally worthless partner had decided that this emerald treasure should be theirs and that the daughter of the old scientist should accompany the treasure if the occasion offered.
Tarzan hurried back through the middle lane in the treetops and found that the old camp had been deserted for about an hour's march south on the banks of a sluggishly flowing stream.
Abandoning the treetops, Tarzan trailed the white men and the girl. Shouldering a monkey that was a jungle pal of his, Tarzan walked along looking for the white girl.
The heat of the morning sun had made the steaming thickets agony for Mary, and, against the advice and without the knowledge of Bob Drake, she decided that she would try a little swim.
Tarzan found her swimming in the pool where the waters of the little stream were deep enough to permit it. He marvelled at the white grace of her body. Even now, seeing for the first time one of the women of his own kind. Tarzan remembered that this was the jungle. He saw the blunt snout of the crocodile long before Mary saw the triangular ripple that told her of the swift-moving death approaching.
She did not give up.
Instead she struck out strongly for the shore, using a stroke that Tarzan, who swam like any other animal, had never seen before. She was no match for the lurking saurian.
Tarzan saw that she was doomed unless he reached the vicious brute in time to save her.
Quicker than thought, he dropped the monkey and jumped for the pool in a dive that would have done honor to an Olympic champion. He broke water beside the swiftly moving snout of the huge reptile. Mary had turned, for she knew that she had no possible hope of reaching the shore and there was some half-formed idea in her mind of splashing so that she might frighten off the reptile. It was a futile thought, for nothing so harmless as a ripple can stop the killing rush of a hungry crocodile. With her heart in her mouth she saw the bronzed body of the Ape-man split the water and come up beside the onrushing head of the attacker.
The reptile stopped dead as the legs of the forest giant curled around his trunk. For a few seconds the water was lashed furiously to a creamy foam.
Carried into the shallow water by the charge of the brute, Tarzan unloosed his leg-hold on the crocodile and seized the two jaws in either hand. With a mighty effort the muscles that could conquer Numa the Lion and make the leopard cower in terror strained at the massive jaws. Slowly they opened. Then, with a final effort that brought ridges of muscle into play across his mighty shoulders, Tarzan tore the jaws of the crocodile apart and cast him back into the stream -- a broken thing, the prey of others of his kind who would soon arrive on the scent of the blood that colored the water of the sluggish stream.
Mary had scrambled to the bank and slipped her frock over her bathing suit as Tarzan, voicing the victory cry of the Great Apes, strode up the bank.
From a fold in his leopard skin, the only covering he could boast of ,Tarzan produced the scraps of paper and the photograph that Bob had taken during the few days that they had spent at Durango. Tears prevented Mary from finishing reading the letter from her father, whom she had given up for dead.
Finally, feeling shy and more than a little embarrassed for some reason that she could not understand herself, she turned to her rescuer.
"How can I thank you?" she said.
Tarzan smiled back, and Mary knew that she would never be afraid or embarrassed again before this bronzed giant of the jungle. That he did not understand was obvious, but the mere fact that he had brought a letter from her father and the story that it told, plus the evidence of her own eyes in the recent battle with the crocodile, told Mary that they had gained an ally who was more valuable than twenty ordinary men.
Just as Mary had this though, she looked up. Something had very much startled her. When she saw what it was, she suppressed a scream of fright.
A huge ape towered above them!
Seeing Mary's agitation, Tarzan was for a moment startled, too. But when he saw the cause of it, he stepped toward the hairy creature to speak to it. No beast could oppose Tarzan.
"Be careful!" Mary cried, clinging to Tarzan's arm.
But in the next instant she realized that something strange was going on. The Lord of the Jungle was talking to the great ape! The two were discussing something in a weird language of their own -- and she was astonished and gratified to see the great ape, muttering something unintelligible to her, turn and vanish into the forest. Again Tarzan had saved her. Again Mary was reminded how useful a friend this Ape-man was -- far better, indeed, as a friend than as a foe!
"I owe you my life," Mary said softly to the Ape-man, "If you could only find my father!"
It was easy enough to guess what was in the girl's mind. Tarzan, finding his early embarrassment completely gone, decided to bring back the father of this girl. For some reason he did not understand, he wanted to please her more than he had ever wanted to please anyone he had met in his whole life before.
Pointing to the letter and then to the hills that showed dark purple in the distance, Tarzan tried to make her understand. Mary patted his hand to show that she knew what he meant. Tarzan gently stroked the brown skin that she had touched, and the girl found that the great barbarian was still able to embarrass her after all.
She was almost glad when Tarzan vanished into the green wastes above her.
But Mary watched the spot where he had disappeared until there was no longer any chance of his return.
And for a reason that she did not even attempt to explain to herself, Mary neglected to tell Bob Drake of her rescue -- or her rescuer.
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