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Volume 7022a

J. Allen St. John: Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar - FP - 8 sepia interior plates
Part Six
Read Along with Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
I must confess that I was in error when I stated that ERB wrote this novel while staying at the Winslow House in Oak Park.  I got the Oak Park right, but it was not at the Winslow House, which is a house in nearby River Forest designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the world famous architect, in the equally famous Prairie House style .  According to ERBzine #3333, ERB actually resided at 414 Augusta, in Oak Park, between May 1914 and April 1917, during which he wrote Jewels, and I apologize for the error.  Now, back to our story.

With a title like “Tarzan Becomes a Beast Again,” ERB sacrificed all of the suspense generated by the situation at the end of Chapter Nine, which left us with Werper in the act of killing Tarzan – while he slept – with the Oparian sacrificial knife.  Thus, we already know that Tarzan lives for how else could be become a beast again?  Anyway, with that said, let us return to the scene of the jewel theft.

XI: Tarzan Becomes a Beast Again

For a moment Werper had stood above the sleeping ape-man, his murderous knife poised for the fatal thrust; but fear stayed his hand.  What if the first blow should fail to drive the point to his victim’s heart?  Werper shuddered in contemplation of the disastrous consequences to himself.  Awakened, and even with a few moments of life remaining, the giant could literally tear his assailant to pieces should he choose, and the Belgian had no doubt that Tarzan would so choose.

Again came the soft sound of padded footsteps in the reeds – closer this time.  Werper abandoned his design.  Before him stretched the wide plain and escape.  The jewels were in his possession.  To remain longer was to risk death at the hands of Tarzan, or the jaws of the hunter creeping ever nearer.  Turning, he slunk away through the night, toward the distant forest.

Tarzan slept on.  Where were those uncanny, guardian powers that had formerly renderedhim immune from the dangers of surprise?  Could this dull sleeper be the alert, sensitive Tarzan of old?

Perhaps the blow upon his head had numbed his senses, temporarily – who may say? Closer crept the stealthy creature through the reeds.  The rustling curtain of vegetation parted a few paces from where the sleeper lay, and the massive head of a lion appeared.  The beast surveyed the ape-man intently for a moment, then he crouched, his hind feet drawn well beneath him, his tail lashing from side to side.

It was the beating of the beast’s tail against the reeds which awakened Tarzan.  Jungle folk do not awaken slowly – instantly, full consciousness and full command of their every faculty returns them from the depth of profound slumber.

Even as Tarzan opened his eyes he was upon his feet, his spear grasped firmly in his hand and ready for attack.  Again was he Tarzan of the Apes, sentient, vigilant, ready.
No two lions have identical characteristics, nor does the same lion invariably act similarly under like circumstances.  Whether it was surprise, fear or caution which prompted the lion crouching ready to spring upon the man, is immaterial – the fact remains that he did not carry out his original design, he did not spring at the man at all, but, instead, wheeled and sprang back into the reeds as Tarzan arose and confronted him.

Yet, one may ask, what happend to those jungle instincts when Werper made so much noise before he stole the jewels?  ERB suggests that it might have the result of concussion; but in the end, it is what it is.  Oh, well, at least it made for a fun scene.

ERB was fascinated with lion tamers.  When he was rich and famous he would spend hours on the MGM lot talking to lion tamers.  In fact, his adopted daughter, Caryl Lee, the daughter of his wife, Florence Gilbert and her then husband, Ashton Dearholt. became an animal trainer for the movies.

The ape-man shrugged his broad shoulders and looked about for his companion.  Werper was nowhere to be seen.  At first Tarzan suspected that the man had been seized and dragged off by another lion; but upon examination of the ground he soon discovered that the Belgian had gone away alone out into the plain.

For a moment he was puzzled; but presently came to the conclusion that Werper had been frightened by the approach of the lion, and had sneaked off in terror.  A sneer touched Tarzan’s lips as he pondered the man’s act – the desertion of a comrade in time of danger, and without warning.  Well, if that was the sort of creature Werper was, Tazan wished nothing more of him. He had gone, and for all the ape-man cared, he might remain away – Tarzan would not search for him.

And unless Werper perfectly covered up the earth which he had excavated to get to where Tarzan had hidden the jewels, Tarzan’s instincts failed him again, for he wouldn’t remember the jewels until he was about to be sacrificed.  See for yourself.
A hundred yards from where he stood grew a large tree, alone upon the edge of the reedy jungle.  Tarzan made his way to it, clambered into it, and finding a comfortable crotch among its branches, reposed himself for uninterrupted sleep until morning.

And when morning came Tarzan slept on long after the sun had risen.  His mind, reverted to the primitive, was untroubled by any more serious obligations than those of providing sustenance, and safeguarding his life.  Therefore there was nothing to awaken for until danger threatened, or the pangs of hunger assailed.  It was the latter which eventually aroused him.

Opening his eyes, he stretched his giant thews, yawned, rose and gazed about him through the leafy foliage of his retreat.  Across the wasted meadowlands and fields of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes looked, as a stranger, upon the moving figures of Basuli and his braves as they prepared their morning meal and made ready to set out upon the expedition which Basuli had planned after discovering the havoc and disaster which had befallen the estate of his dead master.

The ape-man eyed the blacks with curiosity.  In the back of his brain loitered a fleeting sense of familiarity with all that he saw, yet he could not connect any of the various forms of life, animate and inanimate, which had fallen within his range of vision since he had emerged from the darkness of the pits of Opar, with any particular event of the past.

Hazily he recalled a grim and hideous form, hairy, ferocious.  A vague tenderness dominated his savage sentiments as this phantom memory struggle for recognition.  His mind had reverted to his childhood days – it was the figure of the giant she-ape, Kala, that he saw; but only half recognized.  He saw, too, other grotesque, manlike forms.  They were of Terkoz, Tublat, Kerchak, and a smaller less ferocious figure, that was Neeta, the little playmate of his boyhood.

You can read about Tarzan’s first romantic love in the classic short story, “Tarzan’s First Love,” the first story in Jungle Tales of Tarzan, ERB’s answer to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.  Since his memory has reverted to his boyhood, the fact that he killed Terkoz after he had kidnapped Jane and almost raped her before Tarzan saved her, is beyond his memories.  Oh, yes, he also killed Kerchak to become the undisputed leader of the Great Apes in that area.
Slowly, very slowly, as these visions of the past animated his lethargic memory, he came to recognize them.  They took definite shape and form, adjusting themselves nicely to the various incidents of his life with which they had been intimately connected.  His boyhood among the apes spread itself in a slow panorama before him, and as it unfolded it induced within him a mighty longing for the companionship of the shaggy, low-browed brutes of his past.

He watched the blacks scatter their cook fire and depart; but though the face of each of them had but recently been as familiar to him as his own, they awakened within him no recollections whatsoever.

When they had gone, he descended from the tree and sought food.  Out upon the plain grazed numerous herds of wild ruminants.  Toward a sleek, fat bunch of zebra he worked his stealthy way.  No intricate process of reasoning caused him to circle widely until he was down wind from his prey – he acted instinctively.  He took advantage of every form of cover as he crawled upon all fours and often flat upon his stomach toward them.

A plump young mare and a fat stallion grazed nearest to him as he neared the herd. Again it was instinct which selected the former for his meat.  A low bush grew but a few yards from the unsuspecting two.  The ape-man reached its shelter.  He gathered his spear firmly in his grasp.  Cautiously he drew his feet beneath him.  In a single swift move he rose and cast his heavy weapon at the mare’s side.  Nor did he wait to note the effect of his assault, but leaped catlike after his spear, his hunting knife in his hand.
For an instant the two animals stood motionless.  The tearing of the cruel barb into her side brought a sudden scream of pain and fright from the mare, and then they both wheeled and broke for safety; but Tarzan of the Apes, for a distance of a few yards, could equal the speed of even these, and the first stride of the mare found her overhauled, with a savage beast at her shoulder.  She turned, biting and kicking at her foe.  Her mate hesitated for an instant, as though about to rush to her assistance; but a backward glance revealed to him the flying heels of the balance of the herd, and with a snort and shake of his head he wheeled and dashed away.

Clinging with one hand to the short mane of his quarry, Tarzan struck again and again with the knife at the unprotected heart.  The result had, from the first, been inevitable.  The mare fought bravely, but hopelessly, and presently sank to the earth, her heart pierced.  The ape-man placed a foot upon her carcass and raised his voice in the victory call of the Mangani.  In the distance, Basuli halted as the faint notes of the hideous scream broke upon his ears.

“The great apes,” he said to his companion.  “It has been long since I have heard them in the country of the Waziri.  What could have brought them back?”

Who doesn’t love going hunting with Tarzan?  It is always a thrill when he goes head to toe with wild animals.  After all, this superman of the jungle is the perfect killing machine.  And for another note of black humor, thinking that the ape-man has died in the gold vault of Opar, Basuli reasonably concludes that the victory cry he hears comes from a Great Ape.  You can be sure that ERB loved every minute writing this story.
Tarzan grasped his kill and dragged it to the partial seclusion of the bush which had hidden his own near approach, and there he squatted upon it, cut a huge chunk of flesh from the loin and proceeded to satisfy his hunger with the warm and dripping meat.

Attracted by the shrill screams of the mare, a pair of hyenas slunk presently into view. They trotted to a point a few yards from the gorging ape-man, and halted.  Tarzan looked up, bared his fighting fangs and growled.  The hyenas returned the compliment, and withdrew a couple of paces.  They made no move to attack; but continued to sit at a respectful distance until Tarzan had concluded his meal.  After the ape-man had cut a few strips from the carcass to carry with him, he walked slowly off in the direction of the river to quench his thirst.  His way lay directly toward the hyenas, nor did he alter his course because of them.

With all the lordly majesty of Numa, the lion, he strode straight toward the growling beasts.  For a moment they held their ground, bristling and defiant; but only for a moment, and then slunk away to one side while the indifferent ape-man passed them on his lordly way.  A moment later they were tearing at the remains of the zebra.
Back to the reeds went Tarzan, and through them toward the river.  A herd of buffalo, startled by his approach, rose ready to charge or fly.  A great bull pawed the ground and bellowed as his bloodshot eyes discovered the intruder; but the ape-man passed across their front as though ignorant of their existence.  The bull’s bellowing lessened to a low rumbling, he turned and scraped a horde of flies from his side with his muzzle, cast a final glance at the ape-man and resumed his feeding.  His numerous family either followed his example or stood gazing after Tarzan in mild-eye curiosity, until the opposite reeds swallowed him from view.

At the river, Tarzan drank his fill and bathed.  During the heat of the day he lay up under the shade of a tree near the ruins of his burned barns.  His eyes wandered about across the plain toward the forest, and a longing for the pleasures of its mysterious depths possessed his thoughts for a considerable time.  With the next sun he would cross the open and enter the forest!  There was no hurry – there lay before him an endless vista of tomorrows with naught to fill them but the satisfying of the appetites and caprices of the moment.

The ape-man’s mind was untroubled by regret for the past, or aspiration for the future. He could lie at full length along a swaying branch, stretching his giant limbs, and luxuriating in the blessed peace of utter thoughtlessness, without an apprehension or a worry to sap his nervous energy and rob him of his peace of mind.  Recalling only dimly any other existence, the ape-man was happy.  Lord Greystoke had ceased to exist.

For several hours Tarzan lolled upon the swaying, leafy couch until once again hunger and thirst suggested an excursion.  Stretching lazily he dropped to the ground and moved slowly toward the river.  The game trail down which he walked had become by ages of use a deep, narrow trench, its walls topped on either side by impenetrable thicket and dense-growing trees closely interwoven with thick-stemmed creepers and lesser vines inextricably matted into two solid ramparts of vegetation.  Tarzan had almost reached the point where the trail debouched upon the open river bottom when he saw a family of lions approaching along the path from the direction of the river.  The ape-man counted seven – a male and two lionesses, full grown, and four young lions as large and quite as formidable as their parents.  Tarzan halted, growling, and the lions paused, the great male in the lead baring his fangs and rumbling forth a warning roar.  In his hand the ape-man held his heavy spear; but he had no intention of pitting his puny weapon against seven lions; yet he stood there growling and roaring and the lions did likewise.  It was purely an exhibition of jungle bluff.  Each was trying to frighten off the other.  Neither wished to turn back and give way, nor did either at first desire to precipitate an encounter.  The lions were fed up sufficiently so as not to be goaded by pangs of hunger and as for Tarzan he seldom ate the meat of the carnivores; but a point of ethics was at stake and neither side wished to back down. So they stood there facing one another, making all sorts of hideous noises the while they hurled jungle invective back and forth.  How long this bloodless duel would have persisted it is difficult to say, though eventually Tarzan would have been forced to yield to superior numbers.

There came, however, an interruption which put an end to the deadlock and it came from Tarzan’s rear.  He and the lions had been making so much noise that neither could hear anything above their concerted bedlam, and so it was that Tarzan did not hear the great bulk bearing down upon him from behind until an instant before it was upon him, and then he turned to see Buto, the rhinoceros, his little, pig eyes blazing, charging madly toward him and already so close that escape seemed impossible; yet so perfectly were mind and muscles coordinated in this unspoiled, primitive man that almost simultaneously with the sense perception of the threatened danger he wheeled and hurled his spear at Buto’s chest.  It was a heavy spear shod with iron, and behind it were the giant muscles of the ape-man, while coming to meet it was the enormous weight of Buto and the momentum of his rapid rush.  All that happened in the instant that Tarzan turned to meet the charge of the irascible rhinoceros might take long to tell, and yet would have taxed the swiftest lens to record.  As his spear left his hand the ape-man was looking down upon the mighty horn lowered to toss him, so close was Buto to him.  The spear entered the rhinoceros’ neck at its junction with his left shoulder and passed almost entirely through the beast’s body, and at the instant that he launched it, Tarzan leaped straight into the air alighting upon Buto’s back but escaping the mighty horn.

Then Buto espied the lions and bore madly down upon them while Tarzan of the Apes leaped nimbly into the tangled creepers on one side of the trail.  The first lion met Buto’s charge and was tossed high over the back of the maddened brute, torn and dying, and then the six remaining lions were upon the rhinoceros, rending and tearing the while they were being gored or trampled.  From the safety of his perch Tarzan watched the battle royal with the keenest interest, for the more intelligent of the jungle folk are interested in such encounters.  They are to them what the race track and the prize ring, the theater and the movies are to us.  They see them often; but always they enjoy them for no two are precisely alike.

For a time it seemed to Tarzan that Buto, the rhinoceros, would prove victor in the gory battle.  Already had he accounted for four of the seven lions and badly wounded the three remaining when in a momentary lull in the encounter he sank limply to his knees and rolled over upon his side, Tarzan’s spear had done its work.  It was the man-made weapon which killed the great beast that might easily have survived the assault of seven mighty lions, for Tarzan’s spear had pierced the great lungs, and Buto, with victory almost in sight, succumbed to internal hemorrhage.

Then Tarzan came down from his sanctuary and as the wounded lions, growling, dragged themselves away, the ape-man cut his spear from the body of Buto, hacked off a steak and vanished into the jungle.  The episode was over.  It had been all in the day’s work – something which you and I might talk about for a lifetime Tarzan dismissed from his mind the moment that the scene passed from his sight.

Okay, but what about the jewels, those pretty pebbles, that you buried, Tarzan?  They’re not there anymore.  Werper stole them.  But I suppose Tarzan will have other things on his mind for the next chapter is called:

XII: La Seeks Vengeance

Swinging back through the jungle in a wide circle the ape-man came to the river at another point, drank and took to the trees again while he hunted, all oblivious of his past and careless of his future, there came through the dark jungles and the open, parklike places and across the wide meadows, where grazed the countless herbivora of the mystery continent, a weird and terrible caravan in search of him.  There were fifty frightful men with hairy bodies and gnarled and crooked legs.  They were armed with knives and great bludgeons and at the head marched an almost naked woman, beautiful beyond compare.  It was La of Opar, High Priestess of the Flaming God, and fifty of her horrid priests searching for the purloiner of the sacred sarificial knife.

Well, at least someone remembered that all that covers La are long strands of hair hanging from her sides and back, and a leopard loin cloth suspended from a golden waist chain. She is topless.  Will the ape-man still be able to resist her charms.  We will just have to wait and see.
Never before had La passed beyond the crumbling outer walls of Opar; but never before had need been so insistent.  The sacred knife was gone!  Handed down through countless generations it had come to her as a heritage and an insignia of her religious office and regal authority from some long-dead progenitor of lost and forgotten Atlantis.  The loss of the crown jewels or the Great Seal of England could have brought no greater consternation to a British king than did the pilfering of the sacred knife bring to La, the Oparian, Queen and High Priestess of the degraded remnants of the oldest civilization upon earth.  When Atlantis, with all her mighty cities and her cultivated fields and her great commerce and culture and riches sank into the sea long ages since, she took with her all but a handful of her colonists working the vast gold mines of Cenral Africa.  From these and their degraded slaves and a later intermixture of the blood of the anthropoids sprung the gnarled men of Opar; but by some queer freak of fate, aided by natural selection, the old Atlantean strain had remained pure and undegraded in the females descended from a single princess of the royal house who had been in Opar at the time of the great catastrophe.  Such was La.

Burning with white hot anger was the High Priestess, her heart a seething, molten mass of hatred for Tarzan of the Apes.  The zeal of the religious fanatic whose altar has been desecrated was triply enhanced by the rage of a woman scorned.  Twice had she thrown her heart at the feet of the godlike ape-man and twice had she been repulsed.  La knew that she was beautiful, not by the standards of prehistoric Atlantis alone, but by those of modern times was La physically a creature of perfection.  Before Tarzan came that first time to Opar, La had never seen a human male other than the grotesque and knotted men of her clan.  With one of these she must mate sooner or later that the direct line of high priestesses might not be broken, unless Fate should bring other men to Opar.  Before Tarzan came upon his first visit, La had had no thought that such men as he existed, for she knew only her hideous little priests and bulls of the tribe of great anthropoids that had dwelt from time immemorial in and about Opar, until they had become to be looked upon almost as equals by the Oparians.

Among the legends of Opar were tales of godlike men of the olden time and of black men who had come more recently; but these latter had been enemies who killed and robbed.  And, too, these legends always held forth the hope that some day that nameless continent from which their race had sprung, would rise once more out of the sea and with slaves at the long sweeps would send her carven, gold-picked galleys forth to succor the long-exiled colonists.

The coming of Tarzan had aroused within La’s breast the wild hope that at last the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy was at hand; but more strongly still had it aroused the hot fires of love in a heart that never otherwise would have known the meaning of that all-consuming passion, for such a wondrous creature as La could never have felt love for any of repulsive priests of Opar.  Custom, duty and religious zeal might have commanded the union; but there would have been no love on La’s part.  She had grown to young womanhood a cold and heartless creature, daughter of a thousand other cold, heartless, beautiful women who had never known love.  And so when love came to her it liberated all the pent passions of a thousand generations, transforming La into a pulsing, throbbing volcano of desire, and with desire thwarted this great force of love and gentleness and sacrifice was transmuted by its own fires into one of hatred and revenge.

I am sure at one time or another we have experienced that emotion that turns the deepest love into the deepest hatred.  And what about that description!  Harold Robbins, at the height of his career writing soft porn, could not equal ERB’s description of pent-up lust and desire.  Like the song goes, “Jungle love, it’s drivin’ me mad, it’s drivin’ me crazy.”
It was in a state of mind superinduced by these conditions that La led forth her jabbering company to retrieve the sacret emblem of her high office and wreak vengeance upon the author of her wrongs.  To Werper she gave little thought.  The fact that the knife had been in his hand when it departed from Opar brought down no thoughts of vengeance upon his head.  Of course, he should be slain when captured; but his death would give La no pleasure – she looked for that in the contemplated death agonies of Tarzan.  He should be tortured.  His should be a slow and frightful death.  His punishment should be adequate to the immensity of his crime.  He had wrested the sacred knife from La; he had lain sacrilegious hands upon the High Priestess of the Flaming God; he had desecrated the altar and the temple.  For these things he should die; but he had scorned the love of La, the woman, and for this he should die horribly with great anguish.

The march of La and her priests was not without its adventures.  Unused were these to the ways of the jungle, since seldom did any venture forth from behind Opar’s crumbling walls, yet their very numbers protected them and so they came without fatalities far along the trail of Tarzan and Werper.  Three great apes accompanied them and to these was delegated the business of tracking the quarry, a feat beyond the senses of the Oparians.  La commanded.  She arranged the order of march, she selected the camps, she set the hour for halting and the hour of resuming and though she was inexperienced in such matters, her native intelligence was so far above that of the men or the apes that she did better than they could have done.  She was a hard taskmaster, too, for she looked down with loathing and contempt upon the misshapen creatures amongst which cruel Fate had thrown her and to some extent vented upon them her dissatisfaction and her thwarted love.  She made them build her a strong protection and shelter each night and keep a great fire burning before it from dusk to dawn.  When she tired of walking they were forced to carry her upon an improvised litter, nor did one dare to question her authority or her right to such services.  In fact they did not question either.  To them she was a goddess and each loved her and each hoped that he would be chosen as her mate, so they slaved for her and bore the stinging lash of her displeasure and habitually haughty disdain of her manner without a murmer.

For many days they marched, the apes following the trail easily and going a little distance ahead of the body of the caravan and that they might warn the others of impending danger.  It was during a noonday halt while all were resting after a tiresome march that one of the apes rose suddenly and sniffed the breeze.  In a low gutteral he cautioned the others to silence and a moment later was swinging quietly up wind into the jungle.  La and the priests gathered silently together, the hideous little men fingering their knives and bludgeons, and awaited the return of the shaggy anthropoid.

Nor had they long to wait before they saw him emerge from a leafy thicket and approach them.  Straight to La he came and in the language of the great apes which was also the language of decadent Opar he addressed her.

“The great Tarmangani lies asleep there,” he said, pointing in the direction from which he had just come.  “Come and we can kill him.”

“Do not kill him,” commanded La in cold tones.  “Bring the great Tarmangani to me alive and unhurt.  The vengeance is La’s.  Go; but make no sound!” and she waved her hands to include all her followers.

Cautiously the weird party crept through the jungle in the wake of the great ape until at last he halted them with a raised hand and pointed upward and a little ahead.  There they saw the giant form of the ape-man stretched along a low bough and even in sleep one hand grasped a stout limb and one strong, brown leg reached out and overlapped another.  At ease lay Tarzan of the Apes, sleeping heavily upon a full stomach and dreaming of Numa, the lion, and Horta, the boar, and other creatures of the jungle.  No intimation of danger assailed the dormant faculties of the ape-man – he saw no crouching hairy figures upon the ground beneath him nor the three apes that swung quietly into the tree beside him.

The first intimation of danger that came to Tarzan was the impact of three bodies as the three apes leaped upon him and hurled him to the ground, where he alighted half stunned beneath their combined weight and was immediately set upon by the fifty hairy men or as many of them that could swarm upon his person.  Instantly the ape-man became the center of a whirling, striking, biting maelstrom of horror.  He fought nobly but the odds against him were too great. Slowly they overcame him though there was scarce one of them that did not feel the weight of his mighty fist or the rending of his fangs.

What is going to happen to our beloved ape-man?  Well the title of the next chapter might give us a clue or two, for it states simply, “Condemned To Torture and Death.”  Perhaps it should have a television warning to all viewers that the following scenes may only be appropriate for adults.
See you next time.


Read Along with Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
ERBzine 7021
Ch. 1
ERBzine 7021a
Ch. 2
ERBzine 7021b
Ch. 3
ERBzine 7021c
Ch. 4
ERBzine 7022
Ch. 5
ERBzine 7022a
Ch. 6
ERBzine 7022b
Ch. 7
ERBzine 7022c
Ch. 8
ERBzine 7023
Ch. 9
ERBzine 7023a
Ch. 10
ERBzine 7023b
Ch. 11
ERBzine 7023c
Ch. 12
Read the ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Bibliography Entry

Read All of the ERB Essays by
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.

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