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ERB’S APOCALYPSE NOW:
TARZAN AND "THE FOREIGN LEGION"
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Poor Corrie van der Meer has been kidnapped by Oju, a huge orangutan whose motives are unclear. Jerry, Bubonovitch, Rosetti, and van der Bos are following the trail blazed by Tarzan. Let’s join them.
Jerry, Bubonovitch, Rosetti, and van der Bos followed the river down the valley until they came to the trail leading to the left out of the valley and into the forest at the summit of the cliff. Here they found a single blaze upon the bole of a tree and knew that Corrie had taken the trail back toward the village and that her erstwhile captors had not followed her.
When they reached the top of the cliff they heard, very faintly, a shot far ahead of them. Tarzan had carried no firearm, and they could not know that Corrie had been armed. The natural assumption was that she had not. The outlaws had not come this way, so none of them could have fired the shot. The natives had been warned not to touch the Jap weapons that the whites had hidden in their village, nor would they have dared to arm themselves against the proscription of the Japs, of whom they stood in mortal terror.
The four men discussed these various conclusions as they pushed on along the trail. “A Jap must have fired that shot,” said van der Bos. “And where there is one Jap there are doubtless others.”
“Bring ‘em on,” said Rosetti. “I ain’t killed no Jap for two days.”
“We’ll have to be careful,” said Jerry. “I’ll go on ahead about a hundred yards. I’ll fire at the first Jap I see, and then fall back. You fellows get into the underbrush on one side of the trail when you hear my shot and let ‘em have it when you can’t miss. Let ‘em get close.”
“Geeze, Cap, you hadn’t orter do that. Lemme do it,” said Rosetti.
“Or me,” said Bubonovitch. “That’s not your job, Captain.”
“Okay,” said Jerry. “You go ahead, Shrimp, and keep your ears unbuttoned.”
“Why don’t you swing through the trees?” inquired Bubonovitch. Shrimp grinned and ran ahead.
Tarzan had followed Corrie’s trail for no great distance when he came to the spot at which she had been treed by the tiger. He read the whole story as clearly as he might have from a printed page. Even the scattered durians told him how the tiger had finally been driven off. He smiled and now followed the fresh trail that indicated that the girl had resumed her journey but a short time before. Then he heard a shot ahead.
He took to the trees now, and moved swiftly above the trail. Like the men following behind him, he thought that a Jap had fired the shot. He also thought that Corrie had doubtless fallen into the hands of a detail of Jap soldiers. And then he saw a rifle lying in the trail.
Tarzan was puzzled. The Japs would not have gone away and left a rifle behind them. Too, there was no odor of Japs; but the scent spoor of great apes was strong. He dropped into the trail. He saw that Corrie’s spoor ended where the rifle lay. He saw what appeared to indicate that the girl had fallen or been thrown to the ground. He also saw the man-like imprints of the feet of a large orangutan superimposed upon those made by Corrie, but these imprints were only directly beneath the tree where Tarzan stood.
The implication was clear: An orangutan had dropped from the tree, seized Corrie, and carried her off. Tarzan swung into the tree and was off on the trail of Oju. The arboreal spoor was plain to his trained senses. A crushed beetle or caterpillar, the bark on a limb scuffed by a horny hand or foot, a bit of reddish brown hair caught by a twig, the scent spoor of both the ape and the girl which still hung, even though faintly, in the quiet air of the forest.
In a little natural clearing in the forest Tarzan overtook his quarry. Oju had been aware that he was being followed, and now he elected to stand and fight, if fighting would be necessary, in this open space. He still clung to his prize, and it happened that he was holding Corrie in such a position that she could not see Tarzan.
She knew that Oju was facing an enemy, for he was growling savagely. And she heard his opponent growl in reply, but this sounded more like the growl of a lion. Of course there were no lions in Sumatra, but the voice was not the voice of a tiger. She wondered what manner of beast it might be.
The voice was coming closer. Suddenly the orangutan dropped her and lumbered forward. Corrie raised herself on her hands and looked back. And at that instant Tarzan closed with Oju. Corrie leaped to her feet and and drew her pistol. But she dared not fire for fear of hitting Tarzan. The two were locked in an embrace of death. Oju was attempting to close his powerful jaws upon the man’s throat, and the man held the yellow fangs away with one mighty arm. Both were growling, but lower now. Corrie was suddenly conscious of the feeling that she was watching two beasts fighting to the death – and for her.
Tarzan was holding Oju’s jaws from his throat with his right arm. His left was pinned to his side by one of the ape’s. Tarzan was straining to release himself from this hold. Inch by inch he was dragging his left arm free. Inch by inch Oju was forcing his fangs closer and closer to the man’s throat.
Corrie was horrified. She circled the struggling combatants, trying to get a shot at the orangutan; but they were moving too rapidly. She might as easily have hit Tarzan as his opponent.
The two were still on their feet, pulling and straining. Suddenly Tarzan locked one leg around those of the ape and surged heavily against him. Oju fell backwards, Tarzan on top of him. In trying to save himself, the ape had released his hold on the man’s left arm. Then Corrie saw a knife flash, saw it driven into the ape’s breast, heard his screams of pain and rage. Again and again the knife was driven home. The screaming waned, the great body quivered and lay still. Oju was dead.
R.I.P, Oju, the orangutan. Tough shit for the strength of the tribe of Uglo, for this stupid ape was going to be the ruin of them all.
Tarzan rose and placed a foot upon the body of his foe. He raised his face toward the heavens – and then, suddenly, he smiled. The victory cry of the bull ape died in his throat. Why he did not voice it, he himself did not know.
Corrie felt very limp. Her legs refused to hold her, and she sat down. She just looked at Tarzan and shook her head. “All in?” he asked. Corrie nodded. “Well, your troubles are over for today at least, I hope. Jerry, van der Bos, and the sergeants are coming along the trail. We’d better get over there and meet them.” He swung her across his shoulder and swung back along the leafy way that the ape had brought her, but how different were her feelings now!
When they reached the trail, Tarzan examined it and found that the others had not yet passed; so they sat down beside it and waited. They did not talk. The man realized that the girl had undergone terrific shock, and so he left her alone and did not question her. He wanted her to rest.
But finally Corrie broke the silence herself. “I am an awful fool,” she said. “I have had to exert all the will power I possess to keep from crying. I thought death was so near, and then you came. It was just as though you had materialized out of thin air. I suppose that it was the reaction that nearly broke me down. But how in the world did you know where I was? How could you have known what had happened to me?”
“Stories are not written in books alone,” he said. “It was not difficult.” Then he told her just how he had trailed her. “I had an encounter with that same ape a few days ago. I got the better of him then, but I refrained from killing him. I wish now that I had not. His name was Oju.”
“You never said anything about that,” she said.
“It was of no importance.”
“You are a very strange man.”
“I am more beast than man, Corrie.”
She knitted her brows and shook her head. “You are very far from being a beast.”
“You mean that for a compliment. That is because you don’t know the beasts very well. They have many fine qualities that men would do well to emulate. They have no vices. It was left for man to have those as well as many disagreeable and criminal characteristics that the beasts do not have. When I said that I was more beast than man, I didn’t mean that I possessed all their noble qualities. I simply meant that I thought and reacted more like a beast than a man. I have the psychology of a wild beast.”
“Well, you may be right; but if I were going out to dinner, I’d rather go with a man than a tiger.”
Tarzan smiled. “That is one of the nice things about being a beast. You don’t have to go to dinners and listen to speeches and be bored to death.”
Corrie laughed. “But one of your fellow beasts may leap on you and take you for his dinner.”
“Or a nice man may come along and shoot you, just for fun.”
“You win,” said Corrie.
“The others are coming,” said Tarzan.
“How do you know?”
“Usha tells me.”
“Usha? Who is Usha?”
“The wind. It carries to both my ears and my nostrils evidence that men are coming along the trail. Each race has its distinctive body odor; so I know that these are white men.”
A moment later, Rosetti came into view around a curve in the trail. When he saw Tarzan and Corrie he voiced a whoop of pleasure and shouted the word back to those behind him. Soon the others joined them. It was a happy reunion.
“Just like old home week,” observed Bubonovitch.
“It seems as though you had been gone for weeks, Corrie,” said Jerry.
“I went a long way into the Valley of the Shadow,” said Corrie. “I thought that I should never see any of you again in this world. Then Tarzan came.”
Tak van der Bos came and kissed her. “If my hair hasn’t turned white since you disappeared, then worry doesn’t turn hair white. Don’t you ever get out of our sight again, darling.”
Jerry wished that he didn’t like van der Bos. He would greatly have enjoyed hating him. Then he thought: You are an idiot, Lucas. You haven’t a ghost of a show anyway, and those two were made for each other. They are both swell. So Jerry lagged behind and left them together as they resumed the march toward the village.
Tarzan had gone ahead to act as point. The others listened as Corrie recounted her adventures, telling of Amat’s treachery, of Sarina’s unexpected help, of her horrifying experience with Oju, and of her rescue by Tarzan.
“He is magnificent,” she said. “In battle he is terrifying. He seems to become a wild beast, with the strength and agility of a tiger guided by the intelligence of a man. He growls like a beast. I was almost afraid of him. But when the fight was over and he smiled he was all human again.”
Ah, so that’s why Tarzan refrained from the victory cry of the great ape. He was thinking of Corrie, even though he didn’t know it.
“He has added one more debt which we owe him and can never repay,” said Jerry.
“Dat guy’s sure some guy,” said Rosetti, “even if he is a Britisher. I bet he didn’t have nuttin’ to do with dat Geo’ge Toid.”
“That’s a safe bet, Shrimp,” said Bubonovitch. “You can also lay 100 to 1 that he didn’t run around with Caligula either.”
Tak van der Bos found these Americans amusing. He liked them, but often he could not make head or tail of what they were talking about.
“Who was Geo’ge Toid?” he asked.
“He is dat king of England wot Mayor Thompson said he would poke in de snoot if he ever came to Chicago,” explained Rosetti.
There’s another one of those inside jokes that have been lost in history. Personally, I have never heard of Mayor Thompson, but Wikipedia states that William Hale Thompson, known as “Big Bill,” was mayor of Chicago from 1915 to 1923, and again from 1927 to 1931. He was regarded as one of the most unethical mayors in American history due to his open alliance with Al Capone. He gets the chief credit for creating the 20th Century Chicago-style of politics.
“You mean George Third?”
“Dat’s who I said – Geo’ge Toid.”
“Oh,” said van der Bos. Bubonovitch was watching him, and noticed that he did not smile. He liked him for that. Bubonovitch could rib Shrimp, but he couldn’t stand for any foreigner ribbing him.
“This lame brain,” he said, jerking a thumb in Rosetti’s direction, “doesn’t know that the War of the Revolution is over.”
“You disliked Englishmen because of what George Third did?” Tak asked Shrimp.
“You said it.”
“Maybe you won’t think so badly of Englishmen if you’ll just remember that George Third was not an Englishman.”
“He was a German.”
“No kidding. Many of the Englishmen of his day didn’t like him any more than you do.”
“So de guy was a Heinie! Dat explains everyt’ing.” Shrimp was satisfied now. He could like Tarzan and not be ashamed of it.
Presently they caught up with Tarzan. He was talking to two bearded white men. They were sentries posted by guerrillas who had occupied the village. The two other trails were similarly guarded.
Within a few minutes the returning party had entered the kampong; and as they did so, Amat departed into the forest on the opposite side of the village. He had caught a glimpse of Rosetti.
That Amat’s a real jerk; I hope someone finally gives him what he deserves. I want to see him feel it, every inch of it, of a cold, steel blade. Oops, I guess the philosophy of hatred is getting to me. Yes, another short chapter. Now that the guerrillas have joined our group, they have become a force to reckoned with. So, on to the coast!
Ch. 1_Ch. 2_Ch. 3_Ch. 4_Ch. 5
Ch. 6_Ch. 7_Ch. 8_Ch. 9_Ch. 10
Ch. 11_Ch. 12_Ch. 13_Ch. 14_Ch. 15
Ch. 16_Ch. 17_Ch. 18_Ch. 19_Ch. 20
Ch. 21_Ch. 22_Ch. 23_Ch. 24_Ch. 25
Ch. 26_Ch. 27_Ch. 28_Ch. 29_Ch. 30
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