We left Jane Clayton, Lady Greystoke, between the horns of a dilemma. Her tent was pitched between the two tents of evil men, both of whom have evil designs upon the beautiful blonde wife of Tarzan, Lord Greystoke. One of them has silently and stealthily snuck from his tent, bribed or by some other means, influenced the sentries who guarded either end of Jane’s tent to go home for the evening, while he unties the fastenings to the door flap of her tent and then boldly enters. Oh, no, not again!XXI: The Flight to the Jungle
Sleepless upon his blankets, Albert Werper let his evil mind dwell upon the charms of the woman in the nearby tent. He had noted Mohammed Beyd’s sudden interest in the girl, and judging the man by his own standards, had guessed at the basis of the Arab’s sudden change of attitude toward the prisoner.
As he let his imaginings run riot they aroused within him a bestial jealousy of Mohammed Beyd, and a great fear that the other might encompass his base designs upon the defenseless girl. By a strange process of reasoning, Werper, whose designs were identical with the Arab’s, pictured himself as Jane Clayton’s protector, and presently convinced himself that the attentions which might seem hideous to her if proffered by Mohammed Beyd, would be welcomed from Albert Werper.
Her husband was dead, and Werper fancied that he could replace in the girl’s heart the position which had been vacated by the act of the grim reaper. He could offer Jane Clayton marriage – a thing which Mohammed Beyd would not offer, and which the girl would spurn from him with as deep disgust as she would his unholy lust.
It was not long before the Belgian had succeeded in convincing himself that the captive not only had every reason for having conceived sentiments of love for him; but that she had by various feminine methods acknowledged her new-born affection.
And then a sudden resolution possessed him. He threw the blankets from him and rose to his feet. Pulling on his boots and buckling his cartridge belt and revolver about his hips he stepped to the flap of his tent and looked out. There was no sentry before the entrance to the prisoner’s tent! What could it mean? Fate was indeed playing into his hands.
Stepping outside he passed to the rear of the girl’s tent. There was no sentry there, either! And now, boldly, he walked to the entrance and stepped within.
Dimly the moonlight illumined the interior. Across the tent a figure bent above the blankets of a bed. There was a whispered word, and another figure rose from the blankets to a sitting position. Slowly Albert Werper’s eyes were becoming accustomed to the half darkness of the tent. He saw that the figure leaning over the bed was that of a man, and he guessed at the truth of the nocturnal visitor’s identity.
A sullen, jealous rage enveloped him. He took a step in the direction of the two. He heard a frightened cry break from the girl’s lips as she recognized the features of the man above her, and he saw Mohammed Beyd seize her by the throat and bear her back upon the blankets.
Cheated passion cast a red blur before the eyes of the Belgian. No! The man should not have her. She was for him and him alone. He would not be not be robbed of his right.
Quickly he ran across the tent and threw himself upon the back of Mohammed Beyd. The latter, though surprised by this sudden and unexpected attack, was not one to give up without a battle. The Belgian’s fingers were feeling for his throat, but the Arab tore them away, and rising wheeled upon his adversary. As they faced each other Werper struck the Arab a heavy blow in the face, sending him staggering backward. If he had followed up his advantage he would have had Mohammed Beyd at his mercy in another moment; but instead he tugged at his revolver to draw it from its holster, and Fate ordained that at that particular moment the weapon should stick in its leather scabbard.
Before he could disengage it, Mohammed Beyd had recovered himself and was dashing upon him. Again Werper struck the other in the face, and the Arab returned the blow. Striking at each other and ceaselessly attempting to clinch, the two battled about the small interior of the tent, while the girl, wide-eyed in terror and astonishment, watched the duel in frozen silence.
Again and again Werper struggled to draw his weapon. Mohammed Beyd, anticipating no such opposition to his base desires, had come to the tent unarmed, except for a long knife which he now drew as he stood panting during the first brief rest of the encounter.
“Dog of a Christian,” he whispered, “look upon the knife in the hands of Mohammed Beyd! Look well, unbeliever, for it is the last thing in life that you shall see or feel. With it Mohammed Beyd will cut out your black heart. If you have a God pray to him now – in a minute more you shall be dead,” and with that he rushed viciously upon the Belgian, his knife raised high above his head.
Werper was still dragging futilely at his weapon. The Arab was almost upon him. In desperation the European waited until Mohammed Beyd was all but against him, then he threw himself to one side to the floor of the tent, leaving a leg extended in the path of the Arab.
The trick succeeded. Mohammed Beyd, carried on by the momentum of his charge, stumbled over the projecting obstacle and crashed to the ground. Instantly he was up again and wheeling to renew the battle; but Werper was on foot ahead of him, and now his revolver, loosed from its holster, flashed in his hand.
The Arab dove headfirst to grapple with him, there was a sharp report, a lurid gleam of flame in the darkness, and Mohammed Beyd rolled over and over upon the floor to come to a final rest beside the bed of the woman he had sought to dishonor.Some one should have told the Arab to never bring a knife to a gun fight, but all the same, that was a good fight to the death. The irony for Jane is pure irony of the most sublime kind. Werper had intended to do the same thing to her.Almost immediately following the report came the sound of excited voices in the camp without. Men were calling back and forth to one another asking the meaning of the shot. Werper could hear them running hither and thither, investigating.
Jane Clayton had risen to her feet as the Arab died, and now she came forward with outstretched hands toward Werper.
“How can I ever thank you, my friend?” she asked. “And to think that only today I had almost believed the infamous story which this beast told me of your perfidy and of your past. Forgive me, M. Frecoult. I might have known that a white man and a gentleman could be naught else than the protector of a woman of his own race amid the dangers of this savage land.”
Werper’s hands dropped limply at his sides. He stood looking at the girl; but he could find no words to reply to her. Her innocent arraignment of his true purposes was unanswerable.
Outside, the Arabs were searching for the author of the disturbing shot. The two sentries who had been relieved and sent to their blankets by Mohammed Beyd were the first to suggest going to the tent of the prisoner. It occurred to them that possibly the woman had successfully defended herself against their leader.
Werper heard the men approaching. To be apprehended as the slayer of Mohammed Beyd would be the equivalent to a sentence of immediate death. The fierce and brutal raiders would tear to pieces a Christian who had dared spill the blood of their leader. He must find some excuse to delay the finding of Mohammed Beyd’s dead body.
Returning his revolver to its holster, he walked quickly to the entrance of the tent. Parting the flaps he stepped out and confronted the men, who were rapidly approaching. Somehow he found within him the necessary bravado to force a smile to his lips, as he held up his hand to bar their farther progress.
“The woman resisted,” he said, “and Mohammed Beyd wsa forced to shoot her. She is not dead – only slightly wounded. You may go back to your blankets. Mohammed Beyd and I will look after the prisoner,” then he turned and re-entered the tent, and the raiders, satisfied by this explanation, gladly returned to their broken slumbers.
As he again faced Jane Clayton, Werper found himself animated by quite different intentions than those which had lured him from his blankets but a few minutes before. The excitement of his encounter with Mohammed Beyd, as well as the dangers which he now faced at the hands of the raiders when morning must inevitably reveal the truth of what had occurred in the tent of the prisoner that night, had naturally cooled the hot passion which had dominated him when he entered the tent.
But another and stronger force was exerting itself in the girl’s favor. However low a man may sink, honor and chivalry, has he ever possessed them, are never entirely eradicated from his character, and though Albert Werper had long since ceased to evidence the slightest claim to either the one or the other, the spontaneous acknowledgement of them which the girl’s speech had presumed had reawakened them both within him.
For the first time he realized the almost hopeless and frightful position of the fair captive, and the depths of ignominy to which he had sunk, that had made it possible for him, a well-born, European gentleman, to have entertained even for a moment the part that he had taken in the ruin of her home, happiness, and herself.
Too much baseness already lay at the threshold of his conscience for him ever to hope entirely to redeem himself; but in the first, sudden burst of contrition the man conceived an honest intention to undo, in so far as lay within his power, the evil that his criminal avarice had brought upon this sweet and unoffending woman.
As he stood apparently listening to the retreating feet – Jane Clayton approached him.
“What are we to do now?” she asked. “Morning will bring discovery of this,” and she pointed to the still body of Mohammed Beyd. “They will kill you when they find him.”
For a time Werper did not reply, then he turned suddenly toward the woman.
“I have a plan,” he cried. “It will require nerve and courage on your part; but you have already shown that you possess both. Can you endure still more?”
“I can endure anything,” she replied with a brave smile, “that may offer us even a slight chance for escape.”
“You must simulate death,” he explained, “while I carry you from the camp. I will explain to the sentries that Mohammed Beyd has ordered me to take your body into the jungle. This seemingly unnecessary act I shall explain upon the grounds that Mohammed Beyd has conceived a violent passion for you and that he so regretted the act by which he had become your slayer that he could not endure the silent reproach of your lifeless body.”
The girl held up her hand to stop. A smile touched her lips.
“Are you quite mad?” she asked. “Do you imagine that the sentries will credit any such ridiculous tale?”
“You do not know them,” he replied. “Beneath their rough exteriors, despite their calloused and criminal natures, there exists in each a well-defined strain of romantic emotionalism – you will find it among such as these throughout the world. It is romance which lures men to lead wild lives of outlawry and crime. The ruse will succeed – never fear.”
Jane Clayton shrugged. “We can but try – and then what?”
“I shall hide you in the jungle,” continued the Belgian, “coming for you alone and with two horses in the morning.”
“But how will you explain Mohammed Beyd’s death?” she asked. “It will be discovered before ever you can escape the camp in the morning.”
“I shall not explain it,” replied Werper. “Mohammed Beyd shall explain it himself – we must leave that to him. Are you ready for the venture?”
“But wait, I must get you a weapon and ammunition,” and Werper walked quickly from the tent.
Very shortly he returned with an extra revolver and ammunition belt strapped about his waist.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Quite ready,” replied the girl.
“Then come and throw yourself limply across my left shoulder,” and Werper knelt to receive her.
“There,” he said, as he rose to his feet. “Now, let your arms, your legs and your head hang limply. Remember that you are dead.”
A moment later the man walked out into the camp, the body of the woman across his shoulder.
A thorn boma had been thrown up about the camp, to discourage the bolder of the hungry carnivora. A couple of sentries paced to and fro in the light of a fire which they kept burning brightly. The nearer of these looked up in surprise as he saw Werper approaching.
“Who are you?” he cried. “What have you there?”
Werper raised the hood of his burnoose that the fellow might see his face.
“This is the body of the woman,” he explained. “Mohammed Beyd has asked me to take it into the jungle, for he cannot bear to look upon the face of her whom he loved, and whom necessity compelled him to slay. He suffers greatly – he is inconsolable. It was with difficulty that I prevented him taking his own life.”
Across the speaker’s shoulder, limp and frightened, the girl waited for the Arab’s reply. He would laugh at this preposterous story; of that she was sure. In an instant he would unmask the deception that M. Frecoult was attempting to practice upon him, and they would both be lost. She tried to plan how best she might aid her would-be rescuer in the fight which must most certainly follow within a moment or two.
Then she heard the voice of the Arab as he replied to M. Frecoult.
“Are you going alone, or do you wish me to awaken someone to accompany you?” he asked, and his tone denoted not the least surprise that Mohammed Beyd had suddenly discovered such remarkably sensitive characteristics.
“I shall go alone,” replied Werper, and he passed on and out through the narrow opening in the boma, by which the sentry stood.
A moment later he had entered among the boles of the trees with his burden, and when safely hidden from the sentry’s view lowered the girl to her feet, with a low “sh-sh,” when she would have spoken.
Then he led her a little farther into the forest, halted beneath a large tree with spreading branches, buckled a cartridge belt and revolver about her waist, and assisted her to clamber into the lower branches.
“Tomorrow,” he whispered, “as soon as I can elude them, I will return for you. Be brave, Lady Greystoke – we may yet escape.”
“Thank you,” she replied in a low tone. “You have been very kind, and very brave.”
Werper did not reply, and the darkness of the night hid the scarlet flush of shame which swept upward across his face. Quickly he turned and made his way back to camp. The sentry, from his post, saw him enter his own tent; but he did not see him crawl under the canvas of the rear and sneak cautiously to the tent which the prisoner had occupied, where now lay the dead body of Mohammed Beyd.
Raising the lower edge of the rear wall, Werper crept within and approached the corpse. Without an instant’s hesitation he seized the dead wrists and dragged the body upon its back to the point where he had just entered. On hands and knees he backed out as he had come in, drawing the corpse after him. Once outside the Belgian crept to the side of the tent and surveyed as much of the camp as lay within his vision – no one was watching.
Returning to the body, he lifted it to his shoulder, and risking all on a quick sally, ran swiftly across the narrow opening which separated the prisoner’s tent from that of the dead man. Behind the silken wall he halted and lowered his burden to the ground, and there he remained motionless for several minutes, listening.
Satisfied, at last, that no one had seen him, he stooped and raised the bottom of the tent wall, backed in and dragged the thing that had been Mohammed Beyd after him. To the sleeping rugs of the dead raider he drew the corpse, then he fumbled about in the darkness until he had found Mohammed Beyd’s revolver. With the weapon in his hand he returned to the side of the dead man, kneeled beside the bedding, and inserted his right hand with the weapon beneath the rugs, piled a number of thicknesses of the closely woven fabric over and about the revolver with his left hand. Then he pulled the trigger, and at the same instant he coughed.
The muffled report could not have been heard above the sound of his cough by one directly outside the tent. Werper was satisfied. A grim smile touched his lips as he withdrew the weapon from the rugs and placed it carefully in the right hand of the dead man, fixing three of the fingers around the grip and the index finger inside the trigger guard.
A moment later he tarried to rearrange the disorderd rugs, and then he left as he had entered, fastening down the rear wall of the tent as it had been before he had raised it.
Going to the tent of the prisoner he removed there also the evidence that someone might have come to or gone beneath the rear wall. Then he returned to his own tent, entered, fastened down the canvas and crawled into his blankets.
The following morning he was awakened by the excited voice of Mohammed Beyd’s slave calling to him at the entrance of his tent.
“Quick! Quick!” cried the black in a frightened tone. “Come! Mohammed Beyd is dead in his tent – dead by his own hand.”
Werper sat up quickly in his blankets at the first alarm, a startled expression upon his countenance; but at the last words of the black a sigh of relief escaped his lips and a slight smile replaced the tense lines upon his face.
“I come,” he called to the slave, and drawing on his boots, rose and went out of his tent.
Excited Arabs and blacks were running from all parts of the camp toward the silken tent of Mohammed Beyd, and when Werper entered he found a number of the raiders crowded about the corpse, now cold and stiff.
Shouldering his way among them, the Belgian halted beside the dead body of the raider. He looked down in silence for a moment upon the still face, then he wheeled upon the Arabs.
“Who has done this thing?” he cried. His tone was both menacing and accusing. “Who has murdered Mohammed Beyd?”
A sudden chorus of voices arose in tumultuous protest.
“Mohammed Beyd was not murdered,” they cried. “He died by his own hand. This, and Allah, are our witnesses,” and they pointed to a revolver in the dead man’s hand.
For a time Werper pretended to be skeptical; but at last permitted himself to be convinced that Mohammed Beyd had indeed killed himself in remorse for the death of the white woman he had, all unknown to his followers, loved so devotedly.I guess we should be glad that ERB never resorted to a life of crime, for he likely would have gotten away with it. His ability to analyze a situation with such minute detail is the same way the masterminds of crime get away with it. Personally, I thought it was a nice touch to let the other raiders argue for suicide in the face of his apparent doubt. You almost get to like Werper because of this.Werper himself wrapped the blankets of the dead man about the corpse, taking care to fold inward the scorched and bullet-torn fabric that had muffled the report of the weapon he had fired the night before. Then six husky blacks carried the body out into the clearing where the camp stood, and deposited it in a shallow grave. As the loose earth fell upon the silent form beneath the tell-tale blankets, Albert Werper heaved another sigh of relief – his plan had worked out even better than he had dared hope.
With Achmet Zek and Mohammed Beyd both dead, the raiders were without a leader, and after a brief conference they decided to return into the north on visits to the various tribes to which they belonged. Werper, after learning the directon they intended taking, announced that for his part, he was going east to the coast, and as they knew of nothing he possessed which any of them coveted, they signified their willingness that he should go his way.
As they rode off, he sat his horse in the center of the clearing watching them disppear one by one into the jungle, and thanked his God that he had at last escaped their villainous clutches.
When he could no longer hear any sound of them, he turned to the right and rode into the forest toward the tree where he had hidden Lady Greystoke, and drawing rein beneath it, called up in a gay and hopeful voice a pleasant, “Good morning!”
There was no reply, and though his eyes searched the thick foliage above him, he could see no sign of the girl. Dismounting, he quickly climbed into the tree, where he could obtain a view of all its branches. The tree was empty – Jane Clayton had vanished during the silent watches of the jungle night.Really, I would have been shocked if Jane was still there. Anyone who has read more than a few ERB yarns knows to expect surprises like this. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens, knowing ERB will reveal all at the end of the story. But we may have to wait a bit, for the next chapter foretells Tarzan’s destiny.
XXII: Tarzan Recovers His Reason
As Tarzan let the pebbles from the recovered pouch run through his fingers, his thoughts returned to the pile of yellow ingots about which the Arabs and the Abyssinians had waged relentless battle.
What was there in common between the pile of dirty metal and the beautiful, sparkling pebbles that had formerly been the pouch? What was the metal? From whence had it come? What was the tantalyzing half-conviction which seemed to demand the recognition of his memory that the yellow pile for which these men had fought and died had been intimately connected with his past – that it had been his?
What had been his past? He shook his head. Vaguely the memory of his apish childhood passed slowly in review – then came a strangely tangled mass of faces, figures and events which seemed to have no relation to Tarzan of the Apes, and yet which were, even in their fragmentary form, familiar.
Slowly and painfully, recollection was attempting to reassert itself, the hurt brain was mending, as the cause of its recent failure to function was being slowly absorbed or removed by the healing processes of perfect circulation.
The people that now passed before his mind’s eye for the first time in weeks wore familiar faces; but yet he could neither place them in the niche, they had once filled in his past life, nor call them by name. One was a fair she, and it was her face which most often moved through the tangled recollections of his convalescing brain. Who was she? What had she been to Tarzan of the Apes? He seemed to see her about the very spot upon which the pile of gold had been unearthed by the Abyssinians, but the surroundings were vastly different from those which now obtained.
There was a building – there were many buildings – and there were hedges, fences, and flowers. Tarzan puckered his brow in the puzzled study of the wonderful problem. For an instant he seemed to grasp the whole of a true explanation, and then, just as success was within his grasp, the picture faded into a jungle scene where a naked, white youth danced in company with a band of hairy, primordial ape-things.
Tarzan shook his head and sighed. Why was it that he could not recollect? At least he was sure that in some way the pile of gold, the place where it lay, the subtle aroma of the elusive she he had been pursuing, the memory figure of the white woman, and he himself, were inexplicably connected by the ties of a forgotten past.
If the woman belonged there, what better place to search or await her than the very spot which his broken recollections seemed to assign her? It was worth trying. Tarzan slipped the thong of the empty pouch over his shoulder and started off through the trees in the direction of the plain.
At the outskirts of the forest he met the Arabs returning in search of Achmet Zek. Hiding, he let them pass, and then resumed his way toward the charred ruins of the home he had been almost upon the point of recalling to his memory.
His journey across the plain was interrupted by the discovery of a small herd of antelope in a little swale, where the cover and the wind were well combined to make stalking easy. A fat yearling rewarded a half hour of stealthy creeping and sudden, savage rush, and it was late in the afternoon when the ape-man settled himself upon his haunches beside his kill to enjoy the fruits of his skill, his cunning, and his prowess.
His hunger satisfied, thirst next claimed his attention. The river lured him by the shortest path toward its refreshing waters, and when he had drunk, night already had fallen and he was some half mile or more down stream from the point where he had seen the pile of yellow ingots, and where he hoped to meet the memory woman, or find some clew to her whereabouts or her identity.
To the jungle bred, time is usually a matter of small moment, and haste, except when engendered by terror, by rage, or by hunger, is distasteful. Today was gone. Therefore tomorrow, of which there was an infinite procession, would answer admirably for Tarzan’s further quest. And, besides, the ape-man was tired and would sleep.
A tree afforded him the safety, seclusion and comforts of a well-appointed bedchamber, and to the chorus of the hunters and the hunted of the wild river bank he soon dropped off into deep slumber.
Morning found him both hungry and thirsty again, and dropping from his tree he made his way to the drinking place at the river’s edge. There he found Numa, the lion, ahead of him. The big fellow was lapping the water greedily, and at the approach of Tarzan along the trail in his rear, he raised his head, and turning his gaze backward across his maned shoulders glared at the intruder. A low growl warning rumbled from his throat; but Tarzan, guessing that the beast had but just quitted his kill and was well filled, merely made a slight detour and continued to the river, where he stooped a few yards above the tawny cat, and dropping upon his hands and knees plunged his face into the cool water. For a moment the lion continued to eye the man; then he resumed his drinking, and man and beast quenched thirst side by side each apparently oblivious of the other’s presence.
Numa was the first to finish. Raising his head, he gazed across the river for a few minutes with that stony fixity of attention which is a characteristic of his kind. But for the ruffling of his black mane to the touch of the passing breeze he might have been wrought from golden bronze, so motionless, so statuesque his pose.
A deep sigh from the cavernous lungs dispelled the illusion. The mighty head swung slowly around until the yellow eyes rested upon the man. The bristled lip curled upward, exposing yellow fangs. Another warning growl vibrated the heavy jowls, and the king of beasts turned majestically about and paced slowly up the trail into the dense reeds.
Tarzan of the Apes drank on, but from the corners of his gray eyes he watched the great brute’s every move until he had disappeared from view, and, after his keen ears marked the movements of the carnivore.
A plunge in the river was followed by a scant breakfast of eggs which chance discovered to him, and then he set off up the river toward the ruins of the bungalow where the golden ingots had marked the center of yesterday’s battle.
And when he came upon the spot, great was his surprise and consternation, for the yellow metal had disappeared. The earth, trampled by the feet of horses and men, gave no clew. It was as though the ingots had evaporated into thin air.
The ape-man was at a loss to know where to turn or what next to do. There was no sign of any spoor which might denote that the she had been here. The metal was gone, and if there was any connection between the she and the metal it seemed useless to wait for her now that the latter had been removed elsewhere.
Everything seemed to elude him – the pretty pebbles, the yellow metal, the she, his memory. Tarzan was disgusted. He would go back into the jungle and look for Chulk, and so he turned his steps once more toward the forest. He moved rapidly, swinging across the plain in a long easy trot, and at the edge of the forest, taking to the trees with the agility and speed of a small monkey.
His direction was aimless – he merely raced on and on through the jungle, the joy of unfettered action his principal urge, with the hope of stumbling upon some clew to Chulk or the she, a secondary incentive.
For two days he roamed about, killing, eating, drinking and sleeping wherever inclination and the means to indulge it occurred simultaneously. It was upon the morning of the third day that the scent spoor of horse and man were wafted faintly to his nostrils. Instantly he altered his course to glide silently through the branches in the direction from whence the scent came.
It was not long before he came upon a solitary horseman riding toward the east. Instantly his eyes confirmed what his nose had previously suspected – the rider was he who had stolen his pretty pebbles. The light of rage flared suddenly in the gray eyes as the ape-man dropped lower among the branches until he moved almost directly above the unconscious Werper.
There was a quick leap, and the Belgian felt a heavy body hurtle onto the rump of his terror-stricken mount. The horse, snorting, leaped. Giant arms encircled the rider, and in the twinkling of an eye was dragged from his saddle to find himself lying in the narrow trail with a naked, white giant kneeling upon his breast.
Recognition came to Werper with the first glance at his captor’s face, and a pallor of fear overspread his features. Strong fingers were at his throat, fingers of steel. He tried to cry out, to plead for his life; but the cruel fingers denied him speech, as they were as surely denying him life.
“The pretty pebbles?” cried the man upon his breast. “What did you with the pretty pebbles – with Tarzan’s pretty pebbles?”
The fingers relaxed to permit a reply. For some time Werper could only choke and cough – at last he regained the powers of speech.
“Achmet Zek, the Arab, stole them from me,” he cried; “he made me give up the pouch and the pebbbles.”
“I saw all that,” replied Tarzan; “but the pebbles in the pouch were not the pebbles of Tarzan – they were only such pebbles as fill the bottoms of the rivers, and the shelving banks bedside them. Even the Arab would not have them, for he threw them away in anger when he looked upon them. It is my pretty pebbles that I want – where are they?”
“I do not know, I do not know,” cried Werper. “I gave them to Achmet Zek or he would have killed me. A few minutes later he followed me along the trail to slay me, although he had promised to molest me no further, and I shot and killed him; but the pouch was not upon his person and though I searched about the jungle for some time I could not find it.”
“I found it, I tell you,” growled Tarzan, “and I also found the pebbles which Achmet Zek had thrown away in disgust. They were not Tarzan’s pebbles. You have hidden them! Tell me where they are or I will kill you,” and the brown fingers of the ape-man closed a little tighter upon the throat of his victim.
Werper struggled to free himself. “My God, Lord Greystoke,” he managed to scream, “would you commit murder for a handful of stones?”
The fingers at his throat relaxed, a puzzled, far-away expression softened the gray eyes.
“Lord Greystoke!” repeated the ape-man. “Lord Greystoke! Who is Lord Greystoke? Where have I heard that name before?”
“Why man, you are Lord Greystoke,” cried the Belgian. “You were injured by a falling rock when the earthquake shattered the passage to the underground chamber to which you and your black Waziri had come to fetch golden ingots back to your bungalow. The blow shattered your memory. You are John Clayton, Lord Greystoke – don’t you remember?”
“John Clayton, Lord Greystoke!” repeated Tarzan. Then for a moment he was silent. Presently his hand went falteringly to his forehead, an expression of wonderment filled his eyes – of wonderment and sudden understanding. The forgotten name had reawakened the returning memory that had been struggling to reassert itself. The ape-man relinquished his grasp upon the throat of the Belgian, and leaped to his feet.
“God!” he cried, and then, “Jane!” Suddenly he turned toward Werper. “My wife?”
he asked. “What has become of her? The farm is in ruins. You know. You have had something to do with all this. You followed me to Opar, you stole the jewels which I thought but pretty pebbles. You are a crook! Do not try to tell me that you are not.”
“He is worse than a crook,” said a quiet voice close behind them.
Tarzan turned in astonishment to see a tall man in uniform standing in the trail a few paces from him. Back of the man were a number of black soldiers in the uniform of the Congo Free State.
“He is a murderer, Monsieur,” continued the officer. “I have followed him for a long time to take him back to stand trial for the killing of his superior officer.”
Werper was upon his feet now, gazing, white and trembling, at the fate which had overtaken him even in the fastness of the labyrinthine jungle. Instinctively he turned to flee; but Tarzan of the Apes reached out a strong hand and grasped him by the shoulder.
“Wait!” said the ape-man to his captive. “This gentleman wishes you, and so do I. When I am through with you, he may have you. Tell me what has become of my wife.”
The Belgian officer eyed the almost naked, white giant with curiosity. He noted the strange contrast of primitive weapons and apparel, and the easy, fluent French which the man spoke. The former denoted the lowest, the latter the highest type of culture. He could not quite determine the social status of this strange creature; but he knew that he did not relish the easy assurance with which the fellow presumed to dictate when he might take possession of the prisoner.
“Pardon me,” he said, stepping forward and placing his hand on Werper’s other shoulder; “but this gentleman is my prisoner. He must come with me.”
“When I am through with him,” replied Tarzan, quietly.
The officer turned and beckoned to the soldiers standing in the trail behind him. A company of uniformed blacks stepped quickly forward and pushing past the three, surrounded the ape-man and his captive.
“Both the law and the power to enforce it are upon my side,” announced the officer. “Let us have no trouble. If you have a grievance against this man you may return with me and enter your charge regularly before an authorized tribunal.”
“Your legal rights are not above suspicion, my friend,” replied Tarzan, “and your power to enforce your commands are only apparent – not real. You have presumed to enter British territory with an armed force. Where is your authority for this invasion? Where are the extradition papers which warrant the arrest of this man? And what assurance have you that I cannot bring an armed force about you that will prevent your return to the Congo Free State?”
The Belgian lost his temper. “I have no disposition to argue with a naked savage,” he cried. “Unless you wish to be hurt you will not interfere with me. Take the prisoner, Sergeant!”
Werper raised his lips close to Tarzan’s ear. “Keep me from them, and I can show you the very spot where I saw your wife last night,” he whispered. “She cannot be far from here at this very minute.”
The soldiers, following the signal from their sergeant, closed in to seize Werper. Tarzan grabbed the Belgian about the waist, and bearing him beneath his arm as he might have borne a sack of flour, leaped forward in an attempt to break through the cordon. His right fist caught the nearest soldier upon the jaw and sent him hurtling backward upon his fellows. Clubbed rifles were torn from the hands of those who barred his way, and right and left the black soldiers stumbled aside in the face of the ape-man’s savage break for liberty.Remember, it was 1915 when ERB wrote this story. King Leopold, the worst that European Imperialism had to offer, was still on the Belgian throne, his nation embroiled in a terrible war to end all wars with Germany and her allies, which eventually brought his bloody reign to a conclusion. Under this cloud ERB was easily able to portray the Belgian army as bad guys that Tarzan could thwart in the name of jungle humanity.So completely did the blacks surround the two they dared not fire for fear of hitting one of their own number, and Tarzan was already through them and upon the point of dodging into the concealing mazes of the jungle when one who had sneaked upon him from behind struck him a heavy blow upon the head with a rifle.
In an instant the ape-man was down and a dozen black soldiers were upon his back. When he regained consciousness he found himself securely bound, as was Werper also. The Belgian officer, success having crowned his efforts was in good humor, and inclined to chaff his prisoners about the ease with which they had been captured; but from Tarzan of the Apes he elicited no response. Werper, however, was voluble in his protests. He explained that Tarzan was an English lord; but the officer only laughed at the assertion, and advised his prisoner to save his breath for his defense in court.
As soon as Tarzan regained his senses and it was found that he was not seriously injured, the prisoners were hastened into line and the return march toward the Congo Free State boundary commenced.
Toward evening the column halted beside a stream, made camp and prepared the evening meal. From the thick foliage of the nearby jungle a pair of fierce eyes watched the activities of the uniformed blacks with silent intensity and curiosity. From beneath beetling brows the creature saw the boma constructed, the fires built, and the supper prepared.
Tarzan and Werper had been lying bound behind a small pile of knapsacks from the time that the company had halted; but with the preparation of the meal completed, their guard ordered them to rise and come forward to one of the fires where their hands would be unfettered that they might eat.
As the giant ape-man rose, a startled expression of recognition entered the eyes of the watcher in the jungle, and a low gutteral broke from the savage lips. Instantly Tarzan was alert, but the answering growl died upon his lips, suppressed by the fear that it might arouse the suspicions of the soldiers.
Suddenly an inspiration came to him. He turned toward Werper.
“I am going to speak to you in a loud voice and in a tongue which you do not understand. Appear to listen intently to what I say, and occasionally mumble something as though replying in the same language – our escape may hinge upon the success of your efforts.”
Werper nodded in assent and understanding, and immediately there broke from the lips of his companion a strange jargon which might have been compared with equal propriety to the barking and growling of a dog and the chattering of monkeys.
The nearer soldiers looked in surprise at the ape-man. Some of them laughed, while others drew away in evident superstitious fear. The officer approached the prisoners while Tarzan was still jabbering, and halted behind them, listening in perplexed interest. When Werper mumbled some ridiculous jargon in reply his curiosity broke bounds, and he stepped forward, demanding to know what language it was that they spoke.
Tarzan had gauged the measure of the man’s culture from the nature and quality of his conversation during the march, and he rested the success of his reply upon the estimate he had made.
“Greek,” he explained.
“Oh, I thought it was Greek,” replied the officer; “but it has been so many years since I studied it that I was not sure. In future, however, I will thank you to speak in a language which I am more familiar with.”
Werper turned his head to hide a grin, whispering to Tarzan, “It was Greek to him all right – and to me too.”
But one of the black soldiers mumbled in a low voice to a companion: “I have heard those sounds before – once at night when I was lost in the jungle, I heard the hairy men of the trees talking among themselves, and their words were like the words of this white man. I wish that we had not found him. He is not a man at all – he is a bad spirit, and we shall have bad luck if we do not let him go,” and the fellow rolled his eyes fearfully toward the jungle.
His companion laughed nervously, and moved away, to repeat the conversation, with variations and exaggerations, to others of the black soldiery, so that it was not long before a frightful tale of black magic and sudden death was woven about the giant prisoner, and had gone the rounds of the camp.
And deep in the gloomy jungle amidst the darkening shadows of the falling night a hairy, man-like creature swung swiftly southward upon some secret mission of his own.Is Tarzan summoning another animal army? We will just have to wait and see. How many think the man-like being is Chulk? Well, that’s my theory, but its been awhile since I last perused this story, so I am in the same camp as you. The next chapter is called, “A Night of Terror,” so at least we have that much to go on. See you next time.
ERB'S JUNGLE LOVE :: TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR
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