Tarzan is about to be tortured, but unlike most tortures that produce pain and suffering,
Tarzan is about to be tortured in the most diabolical way. Continue reading and see for yourself.
XIII: Condemned To Torture and Death
La had followed her company and when she saw them clawing and hitting at Tarzan, she raised her voice and cautioned them not to kill him. She saw that he was weakening and that soon the greater numbers would prevail over him, nor had she long to wait before the mighty jungle creature lay helpless and bound at her feet.
“Bring him to the place at which we stopped,” she commanded and they carried Tarzan back to a little clearing and threw him down beneath a tree.
“Build me a shelter!” ordered La. “We shall stop here for the night and tomorrow in the face of the Flaming God, La will offer up the heart of this defiler of the temple. Where is the sacred knife? Who took it from him?”
But no one had seen it and each was positive in his assurance that the sacrificial weapon had not been upon Tarzan’s person when they captured him. The ape-man looked upon the menacing creatures which surrounded him and snarled his defiance. He looked upon La and smiled. In the face of death he was unafraid.
“Where is the knife?” La asked him.
“I do not know,” replied Tarzan. “The man took it with him when he slipped away during the night. Since you are so desirous for its return I would look for him and get it back for you, did not you hold me prisoner; but now that I am to die I cannot get it back. Of what good was your knife, anyway? You can make another. Did you follow all this way for nothing more than a knife. Let me go and find him and I will bring it back to you.”
La laughed a bitter laugh, for in her heart she knew that Tarzan’s sin was greater than the purloining of the sacrificial knife of Opar; yet as she looked at him lying bound and helpless before her, tears rose to her eyes so that she had to turn away to hide them; but she remained inflexible in her determination to make him pay in frightful suffering and eventual death for daring to spurn the love of La.
When the shelter was completed La had Tarzan transfered to it. “All night I shall torture him,” she muttered to her priests, “and at the first streak of dawn you may prepare the flaming altar upon which his heart shall be offered up to the Flaming God. Gather wood well filled with pitch, lay it in the form and size of the altar at Opar in the center of the clearing that the Flaming God may look down upon our handiwork and be pleased.”
During the balance of the day the priests of Opar were busy erecting an altar in the center of the clearing, and while they worked they chanted weird hymns in the ancient tongue of that lost continent that lies at the bottom of the Atlantic. They knew not the meanings of the words they mouthed; they but repeated the ritual that had been handed down from preceptor to neophyte since that long-gone day when the ancestors of Piltdown man still swung by their tales in the hunted jungles that are England today.And in the shelter of the hut, La paced to and fro beside the stoic ape-man. Resigned to his fate was Tarzan. No hope of succor gleamed through the dead black of the death sentence hanging over him. He knew that his giant muscles could not part the many strands that bound his wrists and ankles, for he had strained often, but ineffectually for release. He had no hope of outside help and only enemies surrounded him within the camp, and yet he smiled at La as she paced nervously back and forth the length of the shelter.
Just what part exactly of the Piltdown Man is ERB talking about? This is amusing for the fact is that the discovery of Piltdown Man was made in February 1912, the same year that ERB began writing for a career. I googled “Piltdown Man” and found that a Charles Dawson claimed he had discovered the “missing link” between apes and humans, for he produced a human-like skull that he allegedly excavated in the ancient gravel beds near Piltdown, East Sussex, England. Forty-one years later it was proven beyond all doubt to be a hoax, for Dawson had combined the altered mandible and teeth of an orangutan with that of the cranium of a fully developed, though small-brained, modern human – thus becoming one of the greatest hoaxes in history. And if Piltdown Man was somehow linked in his mind with Tarzan and the Great Apes, the irony is that it was proven to be a hoax in 1953 – three years after ERB died. Thus, he never knew conclusively that it was a hoax.
And La? She fingered her knife and looked down upon her captive. She glared and muttered but she did not strike. “Tonight!” she thought “Tonight, when it is dark I will torture him.” She looked upon his perfect, godlike figure and upon his handsome, smiling face and then she steeled her heart again by thoughts of her love spurned; by religious thoughts that damned the infidel who had desecrated the holy of holies; who had taken from the blood-stained altar of Opar the offering to the Flaming God – and not once but thrice. Three times had Tarzan cheated the god of her fathers. At the thought La paused and knelt at his side. In her hand was a sharp knife. She placed its point against the ape-man’s side and pressed upon the hilt; but Tarzan only smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
How beautiful he was! La bent low over him, looking into his eyes. How perfect was his figure. She compared it with those of the knurled and knotted men from whom she must choose a mate, and La shuddered at the thought. Dusk came and after dusk came night. A great fire blazed within the little thorn boma about the camp. The flames played upon the new altar erected in the center of the clearing, arousing in the mind of the High Priestess of the Flaming God a picture of the event of the coming dawn. She saw this giant and perfect form writhing amid the flames of the burning pyre. She saw those smiling lips, burned and blackened, falling away from the strong, white teeth. She saw the shock of black hair tousled upon Tarzan’s wellshaped head disappear in a spurt of flame. She saw these and many other frightful pictures as she stood with closed eyes and clenched fists above the object of her hate – ah! was it hate that La of Opar felt?
The darkness of the jungle night had settled down upon the camp, relieved only by the fitful flarings of the fire that was kept up to warn off the man-eaters. Tarzan lay quietly in his bonds. He suffered from thirst and from the cutting of the tight strands about his wrists and ankles; but he made no complaint. A jungle beast was Tarzan with the stoicism of the beast and the intelligence of man. He knew that his doom was sealed – and no supplications would avail to temper the severity of his end so he wasted no breath in pleadings; but waited patiently in the firm conviction that his sufferings could not endure forever.In the darkness La stooped above him. In her hand was the sharp knife and in her mind the determination to initiate his torture without further delay. The knife was pressed against his side and La’s face was close to his when a sudden burst of flame from new branches thrown upon the fire without, lighted up the interior of the shelter. Close beneath her lips La saw the perfect features of the forest god and into her woman’s heart welled all the great love she had felt for Tarzan since first she had seen him, and all the accumulated passion of the years that she had dreamed of him.
In an insightful and thought provoking article written for ERB-APA #70, Summer 2001, Ken Webber did a character study of La titled, “Tantor Trumpets,” in which he wrote about the scene that follows:
“As a youngster I rushed right past this scene to see if my hero escapes her knife again. As an adult I’ve had to stop and give my imagination full rein as to the unspoken details of this episode! With this one scene this seductress will burn in our hearts with the other great women in the legends and myths of our collective history!”
Earlier Webber remarked concerning her planned torture of Tarzan that it was La herself whom she was really torturing, “her heart raging a battle of hurt, duty, hopelessness and love.
And then in the hottest scene that Burroughs ever penned, we read,”
Dagger in hand, La, the High Priestess, towered above the helpless creature that had dared to violate the sanctuary of her deity. There should be no torture – there should be instant death. No longer should the defiler of the temple pollute the sight of the lord god almighty. A single stroke of the heavy blade and then the corpse to the flaming pyre without. The knife arm stiffened ready for the downward plunge, and then La, the woman, collapsed weakly upon the body of the man she loved.
She ran her hands in mute caress over his naked flesh, she covered his forehead, his eyes, his lips with hot kisses, she covered him with her body as though to protect him from the hideous fate she had ordained for him, and in trembling, piteous tones she begged him for his love. For hours the frenzy of her passion possessed the burning handmaiden of the Flaming God, until at last sleep overpowered her and she lapsed into unconsciousness beside the man she had sworn to torture and to slay.At the first hint of dawn the chanting of the priests of Opar brought Tarzan to wakefulness. Initiated in low and subdued tones, the sound soon rose in volume to the open diapason of barbaric blood lust. La stirred. Her perfect arm pressed Tarzan closer to her – a smile parted her lips and then she awoke, and slowly the smile faded and her eyes went wide in horror as the significance of the death chant impinged upon her understanding.
Wow! No wonder my mother wouldn’t let me read Tarzan novels when I was ten. Most modern readers would have assumed that La made love to Tarzan and Tarzan likely went along with it because he couldn’t remember that he was married. The censors must have gone nuts when they read this scene, but, as usual, ERB had a trick up his sleeve, for a little later on he tells us that La was still a virgin. That’s right, any sex is in the heads of the readers! He lets our dirty minds do the walking, but, come on! By the time we discover that La is still a virgin, most redblooded males have likely spent their passions by then.
“Love me, Tarzan!” she cried. “Love me, and you shall be saved.”
Tarzan’s bonds hurt him. He was suffering the tortures of long-restricted circulation.
With an angry growl he rolled over with his back toward La. That was her answer! The High Priestess leaped to her feet. A hot flush of shame mantled her cheek and then she went dead white and stepped to the shelter’s entrance.
“Come, Priests of the Flaming God!” she cried, “and make ready for the sacrifice.”
The warped things advanced and entered the shelter. They laid hands upon Tarzan and bore him forth, and as they chanted they kept time with their crooked bodies, swaying to and fro to the rhythm of their song of blood and death. Behind them came La, swaying too; but not in unison with the chanted cadence. White and drawn was the face of the High Priestess – white and drawn with the unrequited love and hideous terror of the moments to come. Yet stern in her resolve was La. The infidel should die! The scorner of her love should pay the price upon the fiery altar. She saw them lay the perfect body there upon the rough branches. She saw the High Priest, he to whom custom would unite her – bent, crooked, gnarled, stunted, hideous – advance with the flaming torch and stand awaiting her command to apply it to the faggots surrounding the sacrificial pyre. His hairy, bestial face was distorted in a yellow-fanged grin of anticipatory enjoyment. His hands were cupped to receive the life blood of the victim – the red nectar that at Opar would have filled the golden sacrificial goblets.
La approached with upraised knife, her face turned toward the rising sun and upon her lips a prayer to the burning deity of her people. The High Priest looked questioningly toward her – the brand was burning close to his hand and the faggots lay temptingly near. Tarzan closed his eyes and awaited the end. He knew that he would suffer, for he recalled the faint memories of past burns. He knew that he would suffer and die; but he did not flinch. Death is no great adventure to the jungle bred who walk hand-in-hand with the grim specter by day and lie down at his side by night through all the years of their lives. It is doubtful that the ape-man even speculated upon what came after death. As a matter of fact as his end approached, his mind was occupied by thoughts of the pretty pebbles he had lost, yet his every faculty still was open to what passed around him.
He felt La lean over him and he opened his eyes. He saw her white, drawn face and he saw tears blinding her eyes. “Tarzan, my Tarzan!” she moaned, “tell me that you love me – that you will return to Opar with me – and you shall live. Even in the face of the anger of my people I will save you. This last chance I give you. What is your answer?”
At the last moment the woman in La had triumphed over the High Priestess of a cruel cult. She saw upon the altar the only creature that ever had aroused the fires of love within her virgin breast; she saw the beast-faced fanatic who would one day be her mate, unless she found another less repulsive, standing with the burning torch ready to ignite the pyre; yet with all her mad passion for the ape-man she would give the word to apply the flame if Tarzan’s final answer was unsatisfactory. With heaving bosom she leaned close above him. “Yes or no?” she whispered.Through the jungle, out of the distance, came faintly a sound that brought a sudden light of hope to Tarzan’s eyes. He raised his voice in a weird scream that sent La back from him a step or two. The impatient priest grumbled and switched the torch from one hand to the other at the same time holding it closer to the tinder at the base of the pyre.
Ah, that “heaving bosom”! Note how ERB focuses our attention on La’s breasts – for if you are not accurately picturing this scene in your mind you might have missed it, for her heaving breasts are fully exposed, hanging directly over him, or even touching his body. This is how a good author wrote soft porn in 1915.
“Your answer!” insisted La. “What is your answer to the love of La?”
Closer came the sound that had attracted Tarzan’s attention and now the others heard it – the shrill trumpeting of an elephant. As La looked wide-eyed into Tarzan’s face, there to read her fate for happiness or heartbreak, she saw an expression of concern shadow his features. Now, for the first time, she guessed the meaning of Tarzan’s shrill scream – he had summoned Tantor, the elephant, to his rescue! La’s brows contracted in a savage scowl. “You refuse La!” she cried.
“Then die! The torch!” she commanded, turning toward the priest.
Tarzan looked up into her face. “Tantor is coming,” he said. “I thought he would rescue me; but I know now from his voice that he will slay me and you and all that fall in his path, searching out with the cunning of Sheeta, the panther, those who would hide from him for Tantor is mad with the madness of love.”
La knew only too well the insane ferocity of a bull elephant in must. She knew that Tarzan had not exaggerated. She knew that the devil in the cunning, cruel brain of the great beast might send it hither and thither hunting through the forest for those who escaped his first charge, or the beast might pass on without returning – no one might guess which.
“I cannot love you, La,” said Tarzan in a low voice. “I do not know why, for you are beautiful. I could not go back and live in Opar – I who have the whole broad jungle for my range. No, I cannot love you but I cannot see you die beneath the goring tusks of mad Tantor. Cut my bonds before it is too late. Already he is almost upon us. Cut them and I may yet save you.”
A little spiral of curling smoke rose from one corner of the pyre – the flames licked upward, crackling. La stood there like a beautiful statue of despair gazing at Tarzan and at the spreading flames. In a moment they would reach out and grasp him. From the tangled forest came the sound of cracking limbs and crashing trunks – Tantor was coming down upon them, a huge Juggernaut of the jungle. The priests were becoming uneasy. They cast apprehensive glances in the direction of the approaching elephant and then back at La.
“Fly!” she commanded them and then she stooped and cut the bonds securing her prisoner’s feet and hands. In an instant Tarzan was upon the ground. The priests screamed out their rage and disappointment. He with the torch took a menacing step toward La and the apeman. “Traitor!” he shrieked at the woman. “For this you too shall die!” Raising his bludgeon he rushed upon the High Priestess; but Tarzan was there before her. Leaping in to close quarters the ape-man seized the upraised weapon and wrenched it from the hands of the frenzied fanatic and then the priest closed upon him with tooth and nail. Seizing the stocky, stunted body in his mighty hands Tarzan raised the creature high above his head, hurling him at his fellows who were now gathered ready to bear down upon their erstwhile captive. La stood proudly with ready knife behind the ape-man. No faint sign of her fear marked her perfect brow – only haughty disdain for her priests and admiration for the man she loved so hopelessly filled her thoughts.
Suddenly upon this scene burst the mad bull – a huge tusker, his little eyes inflamed with insane rage. The priests stood for an instant paralyzed with terror; but Tarzan turned and gathering La in his arms raced for the nearest tree. Tantor bore down upon him trumpeting shrilly. La clung with both white arms about the ape-man’s neck. She felt him leap into the air and marveled at his strength and his agility as, burdened with her weight, he swung nimbly into the lower branches of a large tree and quickly bore her upward beyond reach of the sinuous trunk of the pachyderm.
Momentarily baffled here, the huge elephant wheeled and bore down upon the hapless priests who had now scattered, terror-stricken, in every direction. The nearest he gored and threw high among the branches of a tree. One he seized in the coils of his trunk and broke upon a huge bole, dropping the mangled pulp to charge, trumpeting, after another. Two he trampled beneath his huge feet and by then the others had disappeared into the jungle. Now Tantor turned his attention once more to Tarzan for one of the symptoms of madness is a revulsion of affection – objects of sane love become the objects of insane hatred. Peculiar in the unwritten annals of the jungle was the proverbial love that had existed between the ape-man and the tribe of Tantor. No elephant in all the jungle would harm the Tarmangani – the white-ape; but with the madness of must upon him the great bull sought to destroy his long-time play-fellow.
Back to the tree where La and Tarzan perched came Tantor, the elephant. He reared up with his forefeet against the bole and reached high toward them with his long trunk; but Tarzan had foreseen this and clambered beyond the bull’s longest reach. Failure but tended to further enrage the mad creature. He bellowed and trumpeted and screamed until the earth shook to the mighty volume of his noise. He put his head against the tree and pushed and the tree bent before his mighty strength; yet it held.
The actions of Tarzan were peculiar in the extreme. Had Numa, or Sabor, or Sheeta, or any other beast of the jungle been seeking to destroy him, the ape-man would have danced about hurling missiles and invective at his assailant. He would have insulted and taunted them, reviling in the Billingsgate he knew so well; but now he sat silent out of Tantor’s reach and upon his handsome face was an expression of deep sorrow and pity, for of all the jungle folk Tarzan loved Tantor the best. Could he have slain him he would not have thought of doing so. His one idea was to escape, for he knew that for the passing of the must Tantor would be sane again and that once more he might stretch at full length upon that mighty back and make foolish speech into those great, flapping ears,Finding that the tree would not fall to his pushing, Tantor was but enraged the more. He looked up at the two perched high above him, his red-rimmed eyes blazing with insane hatred, and then he wound his trunk about the bole of the tree, spread his great feet wide apart and tugged to uproot the jungle giant. A huge creature was Tantor, an enormous bull in the full prime of all his stupendous strength. Mightily he strove until presently, to Tarzan’s consternation, the great tree gave slowly at the roots. The ground rose in little mounds and ridges about the base of the bole, the tree tilted – in another moment it would be uprooted and fall.
I had to google the meaning of “Billingsgate,” and discovered that it means “coarsely abusive language,” named after a notorious fish market in London, where fishmongers hurled abusive language at each other. It’s the first time I ever heard of it, and I doubt that I would ever use it in a sentence, since no one would understand what it meant today.
The ape-man whirled La to his back and just as the tree inclined slowly in its first movement out of the perpendicular, before the sudden rush of its final collapse, he swung to the branches of a lesser neighbor. It was a long and perilous leap. La closed her eyes and shuddered; but when she opened them again she found herself safe and Tarzan whirling onward through the forest. Behind them the uprooted tree crashed heavily to the ground, carrying with it the lesser trees in its path and then Tantor, realizing that his prey had escaped him, set up once more his hideous trumpeting and followed at a rapid charge upon their trail.
And thus ends Chapter Thirteen. Whew! That was a close one. What will befall our heroes and villains? Read on.
XIV: A Priestess But Yet a Woman
At first La closed her eyes and clung to Tarzan in terror, though she made no outcry; but presently she gained sufficient courage to look about her, to look down at the ground beneath and even to keep her eyes open during the wide, perilous swings from tree to tree, and then there came over her a sense of safety because of her confidence in the perfect physical creature in whose strength and nerve and agility her fate lay. Once she raised her eyes to the burning sun and murmured a prayer of thanks to her pagan god that she had not been permitted to destroy this godlike man, and her long lashes were wet with tears. A strange anomaly was La of Opar – a creature of circumstance torn by conflicting emotions. Now the cruel and bloodthirsty creature of a heartless god and again a melting woman filled with compassion and tenderness. Sometimes the incarnation of jealousy and revenge and sometimes a sobbing maiden, generous and forgiving; at once a virgin and a wanton; but always – a woman. Such was La.She pressed her cheek close to Tarzan’s shoulder. Slowly she turned her head until her hot lips were pressed against his flesh. She loved him and would gladly have died for him; yet within an hour she had been ready to plunge a knife into his heart and might again within the coming hour.
In case you missed the first mention of her virginity after her long night of torture, ERB reinforces it this time with an absolutely clear statement of her intact maidenhood. This is a gotcha moment for the censors.
A hapless priest seeking shelter in the jungle chanced to show himself to enraged Tantor. The great beast turned to one side, bore down upon the crooked, little man, snuffed him out and then, diverted from his course, blundered away toward the south. In a few minutes even the noise of his trumpeting was lost in the distance.
Tarzan dropped to the ground and La slipped to her feet from his back. “Call your people together,” said Tarzan.
“They will kill me,” replied La.
“They will not kill you,” contradicted the ape-man. “No one will kill you while Tarzan of the Apes is here. Call them and we will talk with them.”
La raised her voice in a weird, flutelike call that carried far into the jungle on every side.
From near and far came answering shouts in the barking tones of the Oparian priests: “We come! We come!” Again and again. La repeated her summons until singly and in pairs the greater portion of her following approached and halted a short distance away from the High Priestess and her savior. They came with scowling brows and threatening mien. When all had come Tarzan addressed them.
“Your La is safe,” said the ape-man. “Had she slain me she would now herself be dead and many more of you; but she spared me that I might save her. Go your way with her back to
Opar, and Tarzan will go his way into the jungle. Let there be peace always between Tarzan and La. What is your answer?”
The priests grumbled and shook their heads. They spoke together and La and Tarzan could see that they were not favorably inclined toward the proposition. They did not wish to take La back and they did wish to complete the sacrifice of Tarzan to the Flaming God. At last the ape-man became impatient.
“You will obey the commands of your queen,” he said, “and go back to Opar with her or Tarzan of the Apes will call together the other creatures of the jungle and slay you all. La saved me that I might save you and her. I have served you better alive than I could have dead. If you are not all fools you will let me go my way in peace and you will return to Opar with La. I know not where the sacred knife is; but you can fashion another. Had I not taken it from La you would have slain me and now your god must be glad that I took it since I have saved his priestess from love-mad Tantor. Will you go back to Opar with La, promising that no harm shall befall her?”
The priests gathered together in a little knot arguing and discussing. They pounded upon their breasts with their fists; they raised their hands and eyes to their fiery god; they growled and barked among themselves until it became evident to Tarzan that one of their number was preventing the acceptance of his proposal. This was the High Priest whose heart was filled with jealous rage because La openly acknowledged her love for the stranger, when by the world customs of their cult she should have belonged to him. Seemingly there was to be no solution of the problem until another priest stepped forth and, raising his hand, addressed La.
“Cadj the High Priest,” he announced, “would sacrifice you both to the Flaming God; but all of us except Cadj would gladly return to Opar with our queen.”
“You are many against one,” spoke up Tarzan. “Why should you not have your will?
Go your way with La to Opar and if Cadj interferes slay him.”
The priests of Opar welcomed this suggestion with loud cries of approval. To them it appeared nothing short of divine inspiration. The influence of ages of unquestioning obedience to high priests had made it seem impossible to them to question his authority; but when they realized that they could force him to their will they were as happy as children with new toys.
They rushed forward and seized Cadj. They talked in loud menacing tones into his ear. They threatened him with bludgeon and knife until at last he acquiesced in their demands, though sullenly, and then Tarzan stepped close before Cadj.
“Priest,” he said, “La goes back to her temple under the protection of her priests and the threat of Tarzan of the Apes that whoever harms her shall die. Tarzan will go again to Opar before the next rains and if harm has befallen La, woe betide Cadj, the High Priest.” Sullenly Cadj promised not to harm his queen.
“Protect her,” cried Tarzan to the other Oparians. “Protect her so that when Tarzan comes again he will find La there to greet him.”
“La will be there to greet thee,” exclaimed the High Priestess, “and La will wait, longing, always longing, until you come again. Oh, tell me that you will come.”
“Who knows?” asked Tarzan the ape-man as he swung quickly into the trees and raced off toward the east.
For a moment La stood looking after him, then her head drooped, a sigh escaped her lips and like an old woman she took up the march toward distant Opar.
Through the trees raced Tarzan of the Apes until the darkness of night had settled upon the jungle, then he lay down and slept, with no thought beyond the morrow and with even La but the shadow of a memory within his consciousness.
But a few marches toward the north Lady Greystoke looked forward to the day when her mighty lord and master should discover the crime of Achmet Zek, and be speeding to rescue and avenge, and even as she pictured the coming of John Clayton, the object of her thoughts squatted almost naked, beside a fallen log, beneath which he was searching with grimy fingers for a chance beetle or a luscious grub.
Two days elapsed following the theft of the jewels before Tarzan gave them a thought. Then, as they chanced to enter his mind, he conceived a desire to play with them again, and, having nothing better to do than satisfy the first whim which possessed him, he rose and started across the plain from the forest in which he had spent the preceding day.
Though no mark showed where the gems had been buried, and though the spot resembled the balance of an unbroken stretch several miles in length, where the reeds terminated at the edge of the meadowland, yet the ape-man moved with unerring precision directly to the place where he had hid his treasure.
With his hunting knife he upturned the loose earth, beneath which the pouch should be; but, though he excavated to a greater distance than the depth of the original hole, there was no sign of pouch or jewels. Tarzan’s brow clouded as he discovered that he had been despoiled. Little or no reasoning was required to convince him of the identity of the guilty party, and with the same celerity that had marked his descision to unearth the jewels, he set out upon the trail of the thief.
Though the spoor was two days old, and practically obliterated in many places, Tarzan followed it with comparative ease. A white man could not have followed it twenty paces twelve hours after it had been made, a black man would have lost it within the first mile; but Tarzan of the Apes had been forced in childhood to develop senses that an ordinary mortal scarce ever uses.
We may note the garlic and the whisky on the breath of a fellow strap hanger, or the cheap perfume emanating from the person of the wondrous lady sitting in front of us, and deplore the fact of our sensitive noses; but, as a matter of fact, we cannot smell at all, our olfactory organs are practically atrophied, by comparison with the development of the sense among the beasts of the wild.
Where a foot is placed an effluvium remains for a considerable time. It is beyond the range of our sensibilities; but to a creature of the lower orders, especially to the hunters and the hunted, as interesting and ofttimes more lucid than is the printed page to us.
Nor was Tarzan dependent alone upon his sense of smell. Vision and hearing had been brought to a marvelous state of development by the necessities of his early life, where survival itself depended almost daily upon the exercise of the keenest vigilance and the constant use of all his faculties.
And so he followed the old trail of the Belgian through the forest and toward the north; but because of the age of the trail he was constrained to a far from rapid progress. The man he followed was two days ahead of him when Tarzan took up the pursuit, and each day he gained upon the ape-man. The latter, however, felt not the slightest doubt as to the outcome. Some day he would overhaul his quarry – he could bide his time in peace until that day dawned. Doggedly he followed the faint spoor, pausing by day only to kill and eat, and at night only to sleep and refresh himself.
Occasionally, he passed parties of savage warriors; but these he gave a wide berth, for he was hunting with a purpose that was not to be distracted by the minor accidents of the trail.
These parties were of the collective hordes of the Waziri and their allies which Basuli had scattered his messengers broadcast to summon. They were marching to a common rendezvous for an assault upon the stronghold of Achmet Zek; but to Tarzan they were enemies – he retained no conscious memory of any friendship for the black men.
It was night when he halted outside the palisaded village of the Arab raider. Perched in the branches of a great tree he gazed down upon the life within the enclosure. To this place had the spoor led him. His quarry must be within; but how was he to find him among so many huts? Tarzan, although cognizant of his mighty powers, realized also his limitations. He knew that he could not successfully cope with great numbers in open battle. He must resort to the stealth and trickery of the wild beast, if he were to succeed.
Sitting in the safety of his tree, munching upon the leg bone of Horta, the boar, Tarzan, waited a favorable opportunity to enter the village. For awhile he gnawed at the bulging, round ends of the large bone, splintering off small pieces between his strong jaws, and sucking at the delicious marrow within; but all the time he cast repeated glances into the village. He saw whiterobed figures, and half-naked blacks; but not once did he see one who resembled the stealer of the gems.
Patiently he waited until the streets were deserted by all save the sentries at the gates, then he dropped lightly to the ground, circled to the opposite side of the village and approached the palisade.
At his side hung a long, rawhide rope – a natural and more dependable evolution from the grass rope of his childhood. Loosening this, he spread the noose upon the ground behind him, and with a quick movement of his wrist tossed the coils over one of the sharpened projections of the summit of the palisade.
Drawing the noose taut, he tested the solidity of its hold. Satisfied, the ape-man ran nimbly up the vertical wall, aided by the rope which he clutched in both hands. Once at the top it required but a moment to gather the dangling rope once more into its coils, make it fast again at his waist, take a quick glance downward within the palisade, and, assured that no one lurked directly beneath him, drop softly to the ground.
Now he was within the village. Before him stretched a series of tents and native huts. The business of exploring each of them would be fraught with danger; but danger was only a natural factor at each day’s life – it never appalled Tarzan. The chances appealed to him – the chances of life and death, with his prowess and his faculties pitted against those of a worthy antagonist.
It was not necessary that he enter each habitation – through a door, a window or an open chink, his nose told him whether or not his prey lay within. For some time he found one disappointment following upon the heels of another in quick succession. No spoor of the Belgian was discernable. But at last he came to a tent where the smell of the thief was strong. Tarzan listened, his ear close to the canvas at the rear, but no sound came from within.
At last he cut one of the pin ropes, raised the bottom of the canvas, and intruded his head within the interior. All was quiet and dark. Tarzan crawled cautiously within – the scent of the Belgian was strong; but it was not live scent. Even before he had examined the interior minutely, Tarzan knew that no one was within it.
In one corner he found a pile of blankets and clothing scattered about; but no pouch or pretty pebbles. A careful examination of the balance of the tent revealed nothing more, at least nothing to indicate the presence of the jewels; but at the side where the blankets and clothing lay, the ape-man discovered that the tent wall had been loosened at the bottom, and presently he sensed that the Belgian had recently passed out of the tent by this avenue.
Tarzan was not long in following the way that his prey had fled. The spoor led always in the shadow and at the rear of the huts and tents of the village – it was quite evident to Tarzan that the Belgian had gone alone and secretly upon his mission. Evidently he feared the inhabitants of the village, or at least his work had been of such a nature that he dared not risk detection.
At the back of a native hut the spoor led through a small hole recently cut in the brush wall and into the dark interior beyond. Fearlessly, Tarzan followed the trail. On hands and knees he crawled through the small aperture. Within the hut his nostrils were assailed by many odors; but clear and distinct among them was one that half aroused a latent memory of the past – it was the faint and delicate odor of a woman. With the cognizance of it there rose in the breast of the ape-man a strange uneasiness – the result of an irresistible force which he was destined to become acquainted with anew – the instinct which draws the male to his mate.In the same hut was the scent spoor of the Belgian, too, and as both these assailed the nostrils of the ape-man, mingling one with the other, a jealous rage leaped and burned within him, though his memory held before the mirror of recollection no image of the she to which he had attached his desire.
Thank God Tarzan is still red-blooded – at least some woman has aroused him! This is ERB’s way of showing us that faithfulness is either in your character or it is not. This was another factor ERB could use in his defense of the eroticism in the last chapter. As Mr. Webber noted, this was the hottest scene he ever wrote, so it must have caused him much trouble at home.
Like the tent he had investigated, the hut, too, was empty, and after satisfying himself that his stolen pouch was secreted nowhere within, he left, as he had entered, by the hole in the rear wall.
Here he took up the spoor of the Belgian, followed it across the clearing, over the palisade, and out into the dark jungle beyond.
Well, that was quite a ride. The next chapter is called, “The Flight of Werper.” Will it be like Beasts of Tarzan, where Jane had her near-rape jungle adventures absent the ape-man, or will it be something totally different? Stay tuned, and let’s find out.
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