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ERB’S GREAT IMPOSTERS:
FLORA HAWKES AND ESTEBAN MIRANDA IN
TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
All right, how many here have kept track of the golden ingots? I believe they’ve been buried at least two times and Esteban has been behind both of them. These golden ingots are like the Jewels of Opar, constantly switching places, like the pea in a three cup con game. Can you believe Esteban actually getting people to believe that he is Tarzan of the Apes. The idea seems so ridiculous that only ERB could have thought it. After all, Esteban is a great actor playing a part he has begun to believe is real. Well, let’s see what he is up to now.
Chapter Fifteen: The Map of Blood
After Esteban and Owaza had buried the gold they returned to the spot where they had left their five men, and proceeding with them to the river made camp for the night. Here they discovered their plans, deciding to abandon the balance of the party to reach the coast as best they might, while they returned to another section of the coast where they could recruit sufficient porters to carry out the gold.
“Instead of going way back to the coast for porters,” asked Esteban, “why could we not just as well recruit them from the nearest village?”
“Such men would not go with us way to the coast,” replied Owaza. “They are not porters, At best they would but carry our gold to the next village.”
“Why not that, then?” inquired the Spaniard. “And at the next village we could employ porters to carry us on still farther, until we could employ other men to continue on with us.”
Owaza shook his head. “It is a good plan, Bwana, but we cannot do it, because we have nothing with which to pay our porters.”
Esteban scratched his head. “You are right,” he said, “but it would save us that damnable trip to the coast and return.” They sat for some moments in silence, thinking. “I have it!” at last exclaimed the Spaniard. “Even if we had the porters now we could not go directly to the coast for fear of meeting Flora Hawkes’ party – we must let them get out of Africa before we take the gold to the coast. Two months will be none too long to wait, for they are going to have a devil of a time getting to the coast at all with that bunch of mutinous porters. While we are waiting, therefore, let us take one of the ingots of gold to the nearest point at which we can dispose of it for trade goods. Then we can return and hire porters to carry it from village to village.”
“The Bwana speaks words of wisdom,” replied Owaza. “It is not as far to the nearest trading post as it is back to the coast, and thus we shall not only save time, but also many long, hard marches.”
“In the morning, then, we shall return and unearth one of the ingots, but we must be sure that none of your men accompanies us, for no one must know until it is absolutely necessary where the gold is buried. When we return for it, of course, then others must know, too, but inasmuch as we shall be with it constantly thereafter there will be little danger of its being taken from us.”
And so upon the following morning the Spaniard and Owaza returned to the buried treasure, where they unearthed a single ingot.
Before he left the spot the Spaniard drew upon the inner surface of the leopard skin that he wore across his shoulder an accurate map of the location of the treasure, making the drawing with a sharpened stick, dipped in the blood of a small rodent he had killed for the purpose. From Owaza he obtained the native names of the river and of such landmarks as were visible from the spot at which the treasure was buried, together with explicit directions as possible for reaching the place from the coast. This information, too, he wrote below the map, and when he had finished he felt much relieved from the fear that should aught befall Owaza he might never be able to locate the gold.
When Jane Clayton reached the coast to take passage for London she found awaiting her a wire stating that her father was entirely out of danger, and that there was no necessity for her coming to him. She, therefore, after a few days of rest, turned her face again toward home, and commenced to retrace the steps of the long, hot, weary journey that she had just completed. When, finally, she arrived at the bungalow she learned, to her consternation, that Tarzan of the Apes had not yet returned from his expedition to the city of Opar after the gold from the treasure vaults. She found Korak, evidently much exercised, but unwilling to voice a doubt as to the ability of his father to care for himself. She learned of the escape of the golden lion with regret, for she knew that Tarzan had become much attached to the noble beast.
Oh boy, Jane is back in the story. This almost always means more near-rape episodes are to come. She was almost raped three or four times in The Beasts of Tarzan, for we must remember, she is an incredibly beautiful blonde woman. She is also a great student of Tarzan’s woodcraft and can easily survive alone in the darkest jungle setting. She brings a heightened sense of adventure in any story in which she appears. So, let’s have some fun.
It was the second day after her return that the Waziri who had accompanied Tarzan returned without him. Then, indeed, was her heart filled with fear for her lord and master. She questioned the men carefully, and when she learned from them that Tarzan had suffered another accident that had again affected his memory, she immediately announced that she would set out on the following day in search of him, commanding the Waziri who had just returned to accompany her.
Korak attempted to dissuade her, but failing in that insisted upon accompanying her.
“We must not all be away at once,” she said. “You remain here, my son. If I fail I shall return, and let you go.”
“I cannot let you go alone, Mother,” replied Korak.
“I am not alone when the Waziri are with me,” she laughed. “And you know perfectly well, boy, that I am as safe anywhere in the heart of Africa with them as I am here at the ranch.”
“Yes, yes, I suppose so,” he replied, “but I wish I may go, or that Meriem were here.”
“Yes, I too, wish that Meriem were here,” replied Lady Greystoke. “However, do not worry. You know that my jungle craft, while not equal to that of Tarzan or Korak, is by no means a poor asset, and that, surrounded by the loyalty and bravery of the Waziri, I shall be safe.”
“I suppose you are right,” replied Korak, “but I do not like to see you go without me.”
And so, notwithstanding his objections, Jane Clayton set out the next morning with fifty Waziri warriors in search of her savage mate.
When Esteban and Owaza had not returned to camp as they had promised, the other members of the party were at first inclined to anger, which was later replaced by concern, not so much for the safety of the Spaniard but for fear that Owaza might have met with an accident and would not return to take them in safety to the coast, for of all the blacks he alone seemed competent to handle the surly and mutinous carriers. The blacks scouted the idea that Owaza had become lost and were more inclined to the opinion that he and Esteban had deliberately deserted them. Luvini, who acted as headman in Owaza’s absence, had a theory of his own.
“Owaza and the Bwana have gone after the ivory raiders alone. By trickery they might accomplish as much as we could have accomplished by force, and there will only be two among whom to divide the ivory.”
“But how may two men overcome a band of raiders?” inquired Flora, skeptically.
“You do no know Owaza,” answered Luvini. “If he can gain the ears of their slaves he will win them over, and when the Arabs see that he that accompanies Owaza and who fights at the head of the mutinous slaves is Tarzan of the Apes, they will flee in terror.”
“I believe he is right,” muttered Kraski, “it sounds just like the Spaniard,” and then suddenly he turned upon Luvini. “Can you lead us to the raiders’ camp?” he demanded.
“Yes,” replied Luvini.
“Good,” exclaimed Kraski; “and now, Flora, what do you think of this plan? Let us send a swift runner to the raiders, warning them against Owaza and the Spaniard, and telling them that the latter is not Tarzan, but an imposter. We can ask them to capture and hold the two until we come, and after we arrive we can make such further plans as the circumstances permit. Very possibly we can carry out our original design after we have once entered their camp as friends.”
“Yes, that sounds good,” replied Flora, “and it is certainly crooked enough – just like you, yourself.”
The Russian blushed. “‘Birds of a feather’ –” he quoted.
The girl shrugged her shoulders indifferently, but Bluber, who, with Peebles and Throck, had been silent listeners to the conversation, blustered.
“Vot do you mean birds vit fedders?” he demanded. “Who was a crook? I tell you, Master Carl Kraski, I am an honest man, dat is vun t’ing dat no man don’t say about Adolph Bluber, he is a crook.”
“O shut up,” snapped Kraski, “if there’s anything in it you’ll be for it – if there’s no risk. These fellows stole the ivory themselves, and killed a lot of people, probably, to do it. In addition they have taken slaves, which we will free.”
“O vell,” said Bluber, “if it is fair und eqvitable, vy, all right, but just remember, Mr. Kraski, dat I am an honest man.”
“Blime!” exclaimed Throck, “we’re all honest men; I’ve never seen such a downy bunch of parsons in all me life.”
‘Sure we’re honest,” roared John Peebles, “and anyone ‘at says we ain’t gets ‘is bally ‘ead knocked off, and ‘ere we are, ‘n that’s that.”
The girl smiled wearily. “You can always tell honest men,” she said. “They go around telling the world how honest they are. But never mind that, the thing now is to decide whether we want to follow Kraski’s suggestion or not. It’s something we’ve got all pretty well to agree upon before we undertake it. There are five of us. Let’s leave it to a vote. Do we, or don’t we?”
“Will the men accompany us?” asked Kraski, turning to Luvini.
“If they are promised a share of the ivory they will,” replied the black.
‘How many are in favor of Carl’s plan?” asked Flora.
They were unanimously for it, and so it was decided that they would undertake the venture, and a half hour later a runner was despatched on the trail to the raiders’ camp with a message for the raider chief. Shortly after, the party broke camp and took up its march in the same direction.
A week later, when they reached the camp of the raiders they found that their messenger had arrived safely and that they were expected. Esteban and Owaza had not put in an appearance nor had anything been seen or heard of them in the vicinity. The result was that the Arabs were inclined to be suspicious and surly, fearing that the message brought to them had been but a ruse to permit the considerable body and whites and armed blacks to enter their stockade in safety.
Jane Clayton and her Waziri moving rapidly, picked up the spoor of Flora Hawkes’ safari, at the camp where the Waziri had last seen Esteban, whom they still thought to have been Tarzan of the Apes. Following the plainly marked trail, and moving much more rapidly than the Hawkes safari, Jane and the Waziri made camp within a mile of the ivory raiders only about a week after the Hawkes party arrived and where they still remained, waiting either for the coming of Owaza and Esteban, or for a propitious moment in which they could launch their traitorous assault upon the Arabs. In the meantime, Luvini and some of the other blacks had succeeded in secretly spreading the propaganda of revolt among the slaves of the Arabs. Though he reported his progress daily to Flora Hawkes, he did not report the steady growth and development of a little private plan of his own, which contemplated, in addition to the revolt of the slaves, and the slaying of the Arabs, the murder of all the whites in the camp, with the exception of Flora Hawkes, whom Luvini wished to preserve either for himself or for sale to some black sultan of the north. It was Luvini’s shrewd plan first to slay the Arabs, with the assistance of the whites, and then fall upon the whites and slay them, after their body servants had stolen their weapons from them.
That Luvini would have been able to carry out his plan with ease there is little doubt, had it not been for the loyalty and affection of a young black boy attached to Flora Hawkes for her personal service.
The young woman, notwithstanding the length to which she would go in the satisfaction of her greed and avarice, was a kind and indulgent mistress. The kindnesses she had shown this little boy were presently to return her dividends far beyond her investment.
Luvini had been to her upon a certain afternoon to advise her that all was ready, and that the revolt of the slaves and the murder of the Arabs should take place that evening, immediately after dark. The cupidity of the whites had long been aroused by the store of ivory possessed by the raiders, with the result that all more than eager for the final step in the conspiracy that would put them in possession of considerable wealth.
It was just before the evening meal that the little black boy crept into Flora Hawkes’ tent. He was very wide-eyed, and terribly frightened.
“What is the matter?” she demanded.
“S-sh!” he cautioned. “Do not let them hear you speak to me, but put your ear close to me while I tell you in a low voice what Luvini is planning.”
The girl bent her head close to the lips of the little boy. “You have been kind to me,” he whispered, “and now that Luvini would harm you I have come to tell you.”
“What do you mean,” exclaimed Flora, in a low voice.
“I mean that Luvini, after the Arabs are killed, has given orders that we kill all the white men and take you prisoner. He intends either to keep you for himself or to sell you in the north for a great sum of money.”
“But how do you know all this?” demanded the girl.
“All the blacks in camp know it,” replied the boy. “I was to have stolen your rifle and your pistol, as each of them will steal the weapons of his white master.”
The girl sprang to her feet. “I’ll teach that traitor a lesson,” she cried, seizing her pistol and striding toward the flap of the tent.
The boy seized her about the knees and held her. “No! No!” he cried. “Do not do it. Do not say anything. It will only mean that they will kill the white men sooner and take you prisoner just the same. Every black boy in the camp is against you. Luvini has promised that the ivory shall be divided equally among them all. They are ready now, and if you should threaten Luvini, or if in any other way they should learn that you were aware of the plot, they would fall upon you immediately.”
“What do you expect me to do then?” she asked.
“There is but one hope, and that is in flight. You and the white men must escape into the jungle. Not even I may accompany you.”
The girl stood looking at the little boy in silence for a moment, and then finally she said, “Very well, I shall do as you say. Perhaps I may never be able to repay you, and perhaps, again, I may. Go, now, before suspicion alights upon you.”
The black withdrew from the tent, crawling beneath the back wall to avoid being seen by any of his fellows who were in the center of the camp from which the front of the tent was in plain view. Immediately he was gone Flora walked casually into the open and went to Kraski’s tent, which the Russian occupied in common with Bluber. She found the two men and in low whispers apprised them of the what the black had told her. Kraski then called Peebles and Throck, it being decided that they should give no outward sign of holding any suspicion that aught was wrong. The Englishmen were for jumping in upon the blacks and annihilating them, but Flora Hawkes dissuaded them from any such rash act by pointing out how greatly they were outnumbered by the natives, and how hopeless it would be to attempt to overpower them.
Bluber, with his usual cunning and shrewdness which inclined always to double-dealing where there was the slightest possibility for it, suggested that they secretly advise the Arabs of what they had learned, and joining forces with them take up as strong a position in the camp as possible and commence to fire into the blacks without waiting for their attack.
Again Flora Hawkes vetoed the suggestion. ‘It will not do,” she said, “for the Arabs are at heart as much our enemies as the blacks. If we were successful in subduing the latter it would be but a question of minutes before the Arabs knew every detail of the plot against them, after which our lives would not be worth that,” and she snapped her fingers.
“I guess Flora is right, as usual,” growled Peebles, “but what in ‘ell are we goin’ to do wanderin’ around in this ‘ere jungle without nobody to hunt for us, or cook for us, or carry things for us, or find our way for us, that’s wot I’d like to know, and ‘ere we are, ‘n that’s that.”
“I guess there ain’t nothin’ else to do,” said Throck; “but blime if I likes to run away.”
There came then to the ears of the whites, rumbling from the far distance in the jungle, the roar of a lion.
“Ach, weh!” cried Bluber. “Ve go out all alone in dat jungle? Mien Gott! I just as soon stay here and get killed.”
“They won’t just kill you,” said Kraski. “They’ll torture you if you stay.
Bluber wrung his hands, and the sweat of fear rolled down his oily face. “Ach! vy did I done it?” he wailed. “Vy didn’t I stay home in London vere I belong?”
“Shut up!” snapped Flora. “Don’t you know that if you do anything to arouse the suspicion of these fellows they will be on us at once? There is only one thing for us to do and that is to wait until they precipitate the attack on the Arabs. We still have our weapons, for they do not plan to steal them from us until after the Arabs are killed. In the confusion of the fight, we must make our escape into the jungle, and after that – God knows – and God help us.”
“Yes,” blubbered Bluber, who was in a blue funk, “Gott help us!”
A moment later Luvini came to them. “All is ready, Bwanas,” he said. “As soon as the evening meal has been eaten, be in readiness. You will hear a shot, that will be the signal. Then open fire upon the Arabs.”
“Good,” said Kraski, “we have just been talking about it and we have decided that we will take our stand near the gate to prevent their escape.”
“It is well,” said Luvini, “but you must remain here.” He was addressing Flora. “It would not be safe for you to be where there is to be fighting. Remain here in your tent, and we will confine the fighting to the other side of the village and possibly to the gate, if any of them makes a break for escape.”
“All right,” said Flora, “I will remain here where it is safe.”
Satisfied that things could not have worked into his hands to better advantage Luvini left them, and presently the entire camp was occupied with the evening meal. There was an atmosphere of restraint, and high, nervous tension throughout the entire camp that must have been noticeable, even to the Arabs, though they, alone of the entire company, were ignorant as to its cause. Bluber was so terrified that he could not eat, but sat white and trembling with his eyes roving wildly about the camp – first to the blacks, then to the Arabs, and then to the gate, the distance to which he must have measured a hundred times as he sat there waiting for the shot that was to be the signal for the massacre that was to send him out into the jungle to be, he surely thought, the immediate prey of the first hunting lion that passed.
Peebles and Throck ate their meal stolidly, much to Bluber’s disgust. Kraski, being of a highly nervous temperament, ate but little, but he showed no signs of fear. Nor did Flora Hawkes, though at heart she realized the hopelessness of their situation.
Darkness had fallen. Some of the blacks and Arabs were still eating, when suddenly the silence was shattered by the sharp staccato report of a rifle. An Arab sunk silently to the earth. Kraski rose and grasped Flora by the arm, “Come!” he cried.
Followed by Peebles and Throck, and preceded by Bluber, to whose feet fright had lent wings, they hurried toward the gate of the palisade.
By now the air was filled with the hoarse cries of fighting men and the report of rifles. The Arabs, who had numbered but about a dozen, were putting up a game fight, and being far better marksmen than the blacks, the issue of the battle was still in doubt when Kraski opened the gate and the five whites fled into the darkness of the jungle.
The outcome of the fight within the camp could not have been other than it was, for so greatly did the blacks outnumber the Arabs, that eventually, notwithstanding their poor marksmanship, they succeeded in shooting down the last of the nomads of the north. Then it was that Luvini turned his attention to the other whites only to discover that they had fled the village. He realized two things instantly. One was that someone had betrayed him, and the other, that the whites could not have gone far in the short time since they had left the camp.
Calling his warriors about him he explained to them what had happened, and impressing upon them that the whites, if permitted to escape, would eventually return with reinforcements to punish the blacks, he aroused his followers, who now numbered over two hundred warriors, to the necessity of setting out immediately upon the trail of the fugitives and overtaking them before they could carry word even to a neighboring village, the nearest of which was not more than a day’s march distant.
Sorry, but the fate of our European conspirators will just have to wait, for in the next chapter we are back in the Tower of the Emperors with Tarzan, La, and the golden lion, Jad-bal-ja. And I must say, it’s about time.
Tarzan and the Golden Lion: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Bibliography
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