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ERB’S APOCALYPSE NOW:
TARZAN AND "THE FOREIGN LEGION"
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
There’s been a lot of talking in this story, but sooner or later The Foreign Legion is going to accomplish its mission. They only have another 170 kilometers to go. Easy sweat.
Corrie was sitting with her back against the wall of the cave. Jerry came and sat down beside her. Sarina and Rosetti had wandered out of the cave together, arm in arm.
“Shrimp has become absolutely shameless,” said Jerry. “Do you know, he really hated women. I think you are the first one he ever tolerated. He is very fond of you now.”
“You weren’t particularly keen about us yourself,” Corrie reminded him.
“Well, you see. I’d never known a Dutch girl before.”
“That was nice. You’re improving. But don’t tell me that the finest State in the Union hasn’t the finest girls in the world.”
“There is only one ‘finest girl in the world,’ and she is not from Oklahoma.”
Corrie laughed. “I know what you’re doing?”
“You’re handing me a line. Isn’t that what you Americans call it?”
“I’m not handing you a line, Corrie. You know how I feel about you.”
“I’m not a mind reader.”
“You’re the most wonderful thing that has ever come into my life.”
“Now don’t tell me that you’re making love to me!”
“That is the general idea that I have in mind,” said Jerry, “but I guess I’m not so hot at it.” He was looking into her eyes. Their misty depths reflected the firelight, but deep below the surface there burned another light, such a light that he had never seen in a woman’s eyes before. “God! but you’re wonderful,” he said.
Corrie smiled. “That’s what you said before, but that time you called me a thing. They tell me you’re a great pilot, Captain.”
He knew she was making fun of him; but he didn’t care – he could still see that light in her eyes. “I’m not a great pilot. I’m a great coward. I’m so scared of you that I can’t say three little words.” Corrie laughed, and she didn’t try to help him. “Listen!” he blurted. “How do you think you’ll like living in Oklahoma?”
“I shall like it very much,” she said.
“Darling!” said Jerry. “I’ve got to kiss you. I’ve got to kiss you right now – if it weren’t for all these people in here.”
“We could go outside,” said Corrie.
Sergeant Rosetti held Sarina in his arms. His mouth covered hers. Her arms about his neck pressed him to her fiercely. Corrie and Jerry, coming from the firelight into the night, nearly bumped into them. Then they walked on to a distance.
“I suppose sergeants aren’t supposed to be able to teach their captains anything,” said Corrie; “but then Sergeant Rosetti is a most unusual sergeant.” She was panting a little a moment later when she gently pushed him away. “You misogynist!” she gasped.
Sergeant Bubonovitch was sitting by the fire just inside the mouth of the cave. He had seen Shrimp and Sarina go out arm in arm; then Corrie and Jerry had gone out into the darkness. “I gotta have love,” said Bubonovitch, trying to make friends with little Keta. Little Keta bit him. “Nobody loves me,” said the Sergeant, sorrowfully.
Day after day The Foreign Legion fought with nature for every hard won mile. Often some of them were so exhausted by the time they made camp at the end of a day that they fell asleep without eating. They were too tired even to talk much. But there was no complaining. Corina and Sarina held their own with the men, who were very proud of them.
“They’re lucky they haven’t much to carry,” remarked Bubonovitch. “Add them together and they wouldn’t weigh any more than I do. Maybe they could throw in Shrimp, too. After the war I think I’ll hire the three of them and start a flea circus.”
“Yeah? Wot you ought to have did,” said Shrimp, “is went in de Navy. Den you’d a had a battlewagon to haul you around, you big cow.”
“What you should have done’; not ‘Wot you ought to have did,’” corrected Sarina, who had been laboring to bring Shrimp’s English more into line with that which the Catholic sisters had taught her, to the secret amusement of the rest of the company.
Bubonovitch had once said to Jerry: “The granddaughter of a Borneo head hunter teaching an American English! I have seen everything now.”
Sarina made no effort to spare Shrimp’s feelings. She corrected him in front of everybody, and often in the middle of a sentence. And Shrimp never objected. He just grinned and started over. And he was improving. He had almost stopped saying dis and dat, but did and done still troubled him. Douglas said: “Ain’t love wonderful!”
They were nearing Mt. Masoerai, slightly short of which they were to recross the range and start down toward the sea. It had already been a month since they had left the camp of the guerrillas, and they had had only hardships with which to contend. Never had any of them been in great danger, nor had they seen a human being other than themselves. And then, out of a clear sky, disaster struck. Tarzan was captured by the Japs.
They were following a well marked game trail, Tarzan moving through the trees a short distance ahead of them, as usual. Suddenly he came upon a patrol of Japs. They had stopped in the trail to rest. Tarzan moved closer to determine the strength of the detachment. He still had ample time to return and warn his companions and dispose them for whatever might eventuate. Little Keta rode upon his shoulder. Tarzan cautioned him to silence.
The man’s attention was riveted upon the Japs. He was uaware of the menace hanging just above him. But Keta saw it and commenced to scream. The Japs looked up. The coils of a huge python encircled the body of the man, galvanizing him to action. His knife flashed. The wounded snake writhed frantically in pain and rage, loosing its hold upon the branch that had supported it, and the two fell into the trail at the feet of the Japs. Keta fled.
The Japs fell upon the snake with bayonets and swords, killing it quickly. And Tarzan was at their mercy. There were too many of them. A dozen bayonets were hovering but inches above his body as he lay in the trail upon his back, helpless.
They took his bow and arrows and knife from him. An officer stepped close and kicked him in his side. “Get up!” he said, in English. He had been a truck gardener in Culver City. He was short and bandy legged. He had buck teeth, and he wore horn rimmed glasses. He might have stepped out of a Lichty cartoon. His men had nicknamed him “Whale” on account of his size. He stood a full five feet six inches in his sandals.
The Japanese soldier ERB is depicting is exactly a caricature of one depicted in American propaganda posters and films. George Lichty (1905-1983) was a famous cartoonist of his time, most famous for the “Grin And Bear It” series. He won the National Cartoonist Society’s Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award four times, and helped develop the “animation smear technique,” known as the Lichty Style, whatever that is.
“Who are you,” demanded the officer.
“Col. John Clayton, Royal Air Force.”
“You’re an American,” said the Jap. Tarzan did not reply. “What are you doing here?” was the next question.
“I have told you all that I’m required to tell you, and all I intend telling you.”
“We’ll see about that.” He turned to a sergeant and gave instructions in Japanese. The sergeant formed the detachment, half in front of and half behind the prisoner, then they started going along the trail in the same direction that The Foreign Legion was traveling. Tarzan saw from indications along the trail that they were retracing their steps from the point at which they had halted. He assumed that whatever their mission had been, they had completed it and were returning to camp.
Little Keta fled through the trees until he sighted The Foreign Legion; then he dropped down and leaped to Shrimp’s shoulder. He threw both arms about the man’s neck and screamed and jabbered in his ear.
“Something must have happened to Tarzan,” said Jerry. “Keta is trying to tell us. He wouldn’t leave Tarzan if things were all right with him.”
“May I go along the trail and take a look, Cap?” asked Rosetti. “I can travel faster’n the rest of you.”
“Yes. Get going. We’ll follow.”
Shrimp moved at an even trot. Keta seemed satisfied now; so the man was sure that Jerry had been right. Tarzan was in trouble. Soon Shrimp heard voices and the clank of accouterments. The Japs, apprehending no danger marched carelessly. Shrimp came closer; and presently, towering above the little pseudo men, he saw the head and shoulders of Tarzan. Tarzan was a prisoner of the Japs! It was incredible. Shrimp’s heart sank – the heart which, not so long ago, had been filled with hatred of Englishmen.
The news that Rosetti brought back to the others appalled them all. The loss of the Lord of the Jungle would be a sore blow to the little company, but they thought first of Tarzan’s safety rather than their own. He had inspired within the breasts of all not only respect and admiration, but real affection as well. That was because, as Shrimp had once confided to Bubonovitch, “De guy’s regular.”
“How many Japs were there, Rosetti?” asked Jerry.
“About twenty. They’s nine of us, Cap’n, which is more than enough.”
“You can say that again,” said Bubonovitch. “Let’s go get him.”
“We can’t attack them from the rear on this narrow trail without endangering Tarzan. We’ll have to trail them until we find a better place to attack,” said Jerry.
The trail broke from the forest at the rim of a narrow canyon. Below him, Tarzan saw what was evidently a temporary camp. Half a dozen Jap soldiers guarded some equipment and a few pack animals. The equipment was scattered about in a disorderly manner. Some of it, probably perishable provisions, was covered with tarpaulin. There were no shelters. From the appearance of the camp, Tarzan concluded that the officer was inefficient. The less efficient, the easier he would be to escape from.
2nd Liet. Kenzo Kaneko snapped instructions at a sergeant, and the sergeant bound the prisoner’s wrists behind his back. Though the lieutenant may have been inefficient, the sergeant was not. He bound Tarzan’s wrists so securely and with as many strands that not even the muscles of the Lord of the Jungle could have freed him.
The sergeant similarly bound the captive’s ankles. This done, he pushed and tripped him; so that Tarzan fell to the ground heavily. A horse was brought and the packsaddle adjusted. A line was made fast to the saddle, the other end was then attached to Tarzan’s feet. Lieut. Kaneko came and stood over him. He smiled benignly.
“I should hate to have the horse whipped into a run,” he said. “It would hurt me, but it would hurt you more.”
The horse had been bridled, and a soldier carrying a whip had mounted it. The other soldiers stood about, grinning. They were about to witness an exhibition that would appeal to their sadistic natures.
“If you will answer my questions,” continued Kaneko, “the horse will not be whipped, the line will be detached. How many are in your party and where are they?”
Tarzan remained silent. Kaneko no longer smiled. His features became convulsed with rage, or maybe he was only simulating rage in order to frighten his victim. He stepped closer and kicked Tarzan in the side.
“You refuse to answer?” he demanded.
Tarzan returned the Jap’s stare. His face registered no emotion, not even the contempt he felt for this grotesque caricature of man. Kaneko’s eyes fell beneath those of his prisoner. Something in those eyes frightened him, and that finally filled him with genuine rage.
He snapped a command at the man on the horse. The fellow leaned forward and raised his whip. A rifle cracked. The horse reared and toppled backward. Another shot. 2nd Lieut. Kenzo Kaneko screamed and sprawled upon his face. Then came a fusillade of shots. Soldiers fell in rapid succession. Those who could, fled down the valley in utter demoralization as nine riflemen leaped down the steep trail into camp.
A wounded Jap rose on an elbow and fired at them. Corrie shot him. Then Rosetti and Sarina were among them with bayonet and parang, and there were no more wounded Japs.
Jerry cut Tarzan’s bonds. “You arrived just about in time,” said Tarzan.
“Just like the cavalry in a horse opera,” said Bubonovitch.
“What do you think we better do now?” Jerry asked Tarzan.
“We must try to finish off the rest of them. This is evidently just a detachment from a larger force. If any of these fellows get back to that force, we’ll be hunted down.”
“Have you any idea of how many there were?”
“About tweny-five or twenty-six. How many have we killed?”
“Sixteen,” said Rosetti. “I just counted ‘em.”
Tarzan picked up a rifle and took a belt of ammunition from one of the dead Japs. “We’ll go back up to the rim of the valley. I’ll go ahead through the trees and try to head them off. The rest of you work down along the rim until you can fire down on them.”
A half mile below the camp Tarzan overhauled the survivors. There were ten of them. A sergeant had gathered them together, and was evidently exhorting them to return to the fight. As they turned back, none too enthusiastically, Tarzan fired and brought down the sergeant. A private started to run down the valley. Tarzan fired again, and the man dropped. Now, the others realized that the shots had come from farther down the valley. They sought cover from that direction. Tarzan held his fire so as not to reveal his position.
The Foreign Legion, hearing the two shots, knew that Tarzan had contacted the enemy. They pushed forward through the trees at the rim of the valley. Jerry was in the lead. Presently he saw a Jap who had taken cover behind a fallen tree. Then he saw another and another. He pointed them out, and the firing commenced. Tarzan also started firing again.
The Japs, cut off in both directions in the narrow valley, without a leader, lacking sufficient intelligence or initiative to act otherwise, blew themselves up with their own grenades.
“They’re damned accomodating,” said Douglas.
“Nice little guys,” said Davis; “trying to save us ammunition.”
“I’m goin’ down to help ‘em out,” said Rosetti. “If any of ‘em are left alive.” He slid and rolled down the steep cliffside, and Sarina was right behind him.
“There,” said Bubonovitch, “is the ideal helpmeet.”
It was nice to have a little action after all those almost boring conversations. And when Tarzan says it is his duty to kill as many Japs as he can, he wasn’t kidding. The Foreign Legion has become a force of stone cold killers, that’s for sure. Well, there’s only two chapters left, safarians. Keep marching.
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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