The Height of Civilization
Another month brought them to a little group of buildings
at the mouth of a wide river, and there Tarzan saw many
boats, and was filled with the timidity of the wild thing by
the sight of many men.
Gradually he became accustomed to the strange noises and
the odd ways of civilization, so that presently none might
know that two short months before, this handsome Frenchman
in immaculate white ducks, who laughed and chatted
with the gayest of them, had been swinging naked through
primeval forests to pounce upon some unwary victim, which,
raw, was to fill his savage belly.
The knife and fork, so contemptuously flung aside a month
before, Tarzan now manipulated as exquisitely as did the
So apt a pupil had he been that the young Frenchman had labored
assiduously to make of Tarzan of the Apes a polished gentleman
in so far as nicety of manners and speech were concerned.
"God made you a gentleman at heart, my friend," D'Arnot had
said; "but we want His works to show upon the exterior also."
As soon as they had reached the little port, D'Arnot had
cabled his government of his safety, and requested a three-
months' leave, which had been granted.
He had also cabled his bankers for funds, and the enforced
wait of a month, under which both chafed, was due to their
inability to charter a vessel for the return to Tarzan's jungle
after the treasure.
During their stay at the coast town "Monsieur Tarzan" became
the wonder of both whites and blacks because of several
occurrences which to Tarzan seemed the merest of nothings.
Once a huge black, crazed by drink, had run amuck and
terrorized the town, until his evil star had led him to where the
black-haired French giant lolled upon the veranda of the hotel.
Mounting the broad steps, with brandished knife, the
Negro made straight for a party of four men sitting at
a table sipping the inevitable absinthe.
Shouting in alarm, the four took to their heels, and then
the black spied Tarzan.
With a roar he charged the ape-man, while half a hundred
heads peered from sheltering windows and doorways to witness
the butchering of the poor Frenchman by the giant black.
Tarzan met the rush with the fighting smile that the joy of
battle always brought to his lips.
As the Negro closed upon him, steel muscles gripped the
black wrist of the uplifted knife-hand, and a single swift
wrench left the hand dangling below a broken bone.
With the pain and surprise, the madness left the black
man, and as Tarzan dropped back into his chair the fellow
turned, crying with agony, and dashed wildly toward the
On another occasion as Tarzan and D'Arnot sat at dinner
with a number of other whites, the talk fell upon lions and
Opinion was divided as to the bravery of the King of beasts
--some maintaining that he was an arrant coward, but all
agreeing that it was with a feeling of greater security that
they gripped their express rifles when the monarch of the
jungle roared about a camp at night.
D'Arnot and Tarzan had agreed that his past be kept secret,
and so none other than the French officer knew of the
ape-man's familiarity with the beasts of the jungle.
"Monsieur Tarzan has not expressed himself," said one of
the party. "A man of his prowess who has spent some time in
Africa, as I understand Monsieur Tarzan has, must have had
experiences with lions--yes?"
"Some," replied Tarzan, dryly. "Enough to know that each
of you are right in your judgment of the characteristics of the
lions--you have met. But one might as well judge all blacks
by the fellow who ran amuck last week, or decide that all
whites are cowards because one has met a cowardly white.
"There is as much individuality among the lower orders,
gentlemen, as there is among ourselves. Today we may go out
and stumble upon a lion which is over-timid--he runs away
from us. To-morrow we may meet his uncle or his twin
brother, and our friends wonder why we do not return from
the jungle. For myself, I always assume that a lion is
ferocious, and so I am never caught off my guard."
"There would be little pleasure in hunting," retorted the
first speaker, "if one is afraid of the thing he hunts."
D'Arnot smiled. Tarzan afraid!
"I do not exactly understand what you mean by fear," said
Tarzan. "Like lions, fear is a different thing in different men,
but to me the only pleasure in the hunt is the knowledge that
the hunted thing has power to harm me as much as I have to
harm him. If I went out with a couple of rifles and a gun
bearer, and twenty or thirty beaters, to hunt a lion, I should
not feel that the lion had much chance, and so the pleasure
of the hunt would be lessened in proportion to the increased
safety which I felt."
"Then I am to take it that Monsieur Tarzan would prefer
to go naked into the jungle, armed only with a jackknife, to
kill the King of beasts," laughed the other, good naturedly,
but with the merest touch of sarcasm in his tone.
"And a piece of rope," added Tarzan.
Just then the deep roar of a lion sounded from the distant
jungle, as though to challenge whoever dared enter the lists
"There is your opportunity, Monsieur Tarzan," bantered
"I am not hungry," said Tarzan simply.
The men laughed, all but D'Arnot. He alone knew that a
savage beast had spoken its simple reason through the lips of
"But you are afraid, just as any of us would be, to go out
there naked, armed only with a knife and a piece of rope,"
said the banterer. "Is it not so?"
"No," replied Tarzan. "Only a fool performs any act
"Five thousand francs is a reason," said the other. "I
wager you that amount you cannot bring back a lion from
the jungle under the conditions we have named--naked and
armed only with a knife and a piece of rope."
Tarzan glanced toward D'Arnot and nodded his head.
"Make it ten thousand," said D'Arnot.
"Done," replied the other.
"I shall have to leave my clothes at the edge of the settlement,
so that if I do not return before daylight I shall have
something to wear through the streets."
"You are not going now," exclaimed the wagerer--"at night?"
"Why not?" asked Tarzan. "Numa walks abroad at night
--it will be easier to find him."
"No," said the other, "I do not want your blood upon my
hands. It will be foolhardy enough if you go forth by day."
"I shall go now," replied Tarzan, and went to his room for
his knife and rope.
The men accompanied him to the edge of the jungle,
where he left his clothes in a small storehouse.
But when he would have entered the blackness of the
undergrowth they tried to dissuade him; and the wagerer was
most insistent of all that he abandon his foolhardy venture.
"I will accede that you have won," he said, "and the ten
thousand francs are yours if you will but give up this
foolish attempt, which can only end in your death."
Tarzan laughed, and in another moment the jungle had
The men stood silent for some moments and then slowly
turned and walked back to the hotel veranda.
Tarzan had no sooner entered the jungle than he took to
the trees, and it was with a feeling of exultant freedom that
he swung once more through the forest branches.
This was life! Ah, how he loved it! Civilization held nothing
like this in its narrow and circumscribed sphere, hemmed
in by restrictions and conventionalities. Even clothes were a
hindrance and a nuisance.
At last he was free. He had not realized what a prisoner he
How easy it would be to circle back to the coast, and then
make toward the south and his own jungle and cabin.
Now he caught the scent of Numa, for he was traveling up
wind. Presently his quick ears detected the familiar sound of
padded feet and the brushing of a huge, fur-clad body
through the undergrowth.
Tarzan came quietly above the unsuspecting beast and silently
stalked him until he came into a little patch of moonlight.
Then the quick noose settled and tightened about the
tawny throat, and, as he had done it a hundred times in the
past, Tarzan made fast the end to a strong branch and, while
the beast fought and clawed for freedom, dropped to the
ground behind him, and leaping upon the great back, plunged
his long thin blade a dozen times into the fierce heart.
Then with his foot upon the carcass of Numa, he raised his
voice in the awesome victory cry of his savage tribe.
For a moment Tarzan stood irresolute, swayed by conflicting
emotions of loyalty to D'Arnot and a mighty lust for the
freedom of his own jungle. At last the vision of a beautiful
face, and the memory of warm lips crushed to his dissolved
the fascinating picture he had been drawing of his old life.
The ape-man threw the warm carcass of Numa across his
shoulders and took to the trees once more.
The men upon the veranda had sat for an hour, almost in silence.
They had tried ineffectually to converse on various subjects,
and always the thing uppermost in the mind of each
had caused the conversation to lapse.
"MON DIEU," said the wagerer at length, "I can endure it
no longer. I am going into the jungle with my express and
bring back that mad man."
"I will go with you," said one.
"And I"--"And I"--"And I," chorused the others.
As though the suggestion had broken the spell of some
horrid nightmare they hastened to their various quarters, and
presently were headed toward the jungle--each one heavily armed.
"God! What was that?" suddenly cried one of the party, an
Englishman, as Tarzan's savage cry came faintly to their ears.
"I heard the same thing once before," said a Belgian,
"when I was in the gorilla country. My carriers said it
was the cry of a great bull ape who has made a kill."
D'Arnot remembered Clayton's description of the awful
roar with which Tarzan had announced his kills, and he half
smiled in spite of the horror which filled him to think that
the uncanny sound could have issued from a human throat
--from the lips of his friend.
As the party stood finally near the edge of the jungle,
debating as to the best distribution of their forces, they were
startled by a low laugh near them, and turning, beheld advancing
toward them a giant figure bearing a dead lion upon
its broad shoulders.
Even D'Arnot was thunderstruck, for it seemed impossible
that the man could have so quickly dispatched a lion with the
pitiful weapons he had taken, or that alone he could have
borne the huge carcass through the tangled jungle.
The men crowded about Tarzan with many questions, but
his only answer was a laughing depreciation of his feat.
To Tarzan it was as though one should eulogize a butcher
for his heroism in killing a cow, for Tarzan had killed so
often for food and for self-preservation that the act seemed
anything but remarkable to him. But he was indeed a hero in
the eyes of these men--men accustomed to hunting big game.
Incidentally, he had won ten thousand francs, for D'Arnot
insisted that he keep it all.
This was a very important item to Tarzan, who was just
commencing to realize the power which lay beyond the little
pieces of metal and paper which always changed hands when
human beings rode, or ate, or slept, or clothed themselves, or
drank, or worked, or played, or sheltered themselves from
the rain or cold or sun.
It had become evident to Tarzan that without money one
must die. D'Arnot had told him not to worry, since he had
more than enough for both, but the ape-man was learning
many things and one of them was that people looked down
upon one who accepted money from another without giving
something of equal value in exchange.
Shortly after the episode of the lion hunt, D'Arnot
succeeded in chartering an ancient tub for the coastwise
trip to Tarzan's land-locked harbor.
It was a happy morning for them both when the little vessel
weighed anchor and made for the open sea.
The trip to the beach was uneventful, and the morning
after they dropped anchor before the cabin, Tarzan, garbed
once more in his jungle regalia and carrying a spade, set out
alone for the amphitheater of the apes where lay the treasure.
Late the next day he returned, bearing the great chest upon
his shoulder, and at sunrise the little vessel worked through
the harbor's mouth and took up her northward journey.
Three weeks later Tarzan and D'Arnot were passengers on
board a French steamer bound for Lyons, and after a few
days in that city D'Arnot took Tarzan to Paris.
The ape-man was anxious to proceed to America, but
D'Arnot insisted that he must accompany him to Paris first,
nor would he divulge the nature of the urgent necessity upon
which he based his demand.
One of the first things which D'Arnot accomplished after
their arrival was to arrange to visit a high official of the
police department, an old friend; and to take Tarzan with him.
Adroitly D'Arnot led the conversation from point to point until
the policeman had explained to the interested Tarzan many of
the methods in vogue for apprehending and identifying criminals.
Not the least interesting to Tarzan was the part played by
finger prints in this fascinating science.
"But of what value are these imprints," asked Tarzan,
"when, after a few years the lines upon the fingers are
entirely changed by the wearing out of the old tissue and the
growth of new?"
"The lines never change," replied the official. "From infancy
to senility the fingerprints of an individual change only
in size, except as injuries alter the loops and whorls. But if
imprints have been taken of the thumb and four fingers of both
hands one must needs lose all entirely to escape identification."
"It is marvelous," exclaimed D'Arnot. "I wonder what the
lines upon my own fingers may resemble."
"We can soon see," replied the police officer, and ringing a
bell he summoned an assistant to whom he issued a few directions.
The man left the room, but presently returned with a little
hardwood box which he placed on his superior's desk.
"Now," said the officer, "you shall have your fingerprints
in a second."
He drew from the little case a square of plate glass, a little
tube of thick ink, a rubber roller, and a few snowy white cards.
Squeezing a drop of ink onto the glass, he spread it back
and forth with the rubber roller until the entire surface of the
glass was covered to his satisfaction with a very thin and uniform
layer of ink.
"Place the four fingers of your right hand upon the glass,
thus," he said to D'Arnot. "Now the thumb. That is right.
Now place them in just the same position upon this card,
here, no--a little to the right. We must leave room for the
thumb and the fingers of the left hand. There, that's it. Now
the same with the left."
"Come, Tarzan," cried D'Arnot, "let's see what your
whorls look like."
Tarzan complied readily, asking many questions of the officer
during the operation.
"Do fingerprints show racial characteristics?" he asked.
"Could you determine, for example, solely from fingerprints
whether the subject was Negro or Caucasian?"
"I think not," replied the officer.
"Could the finger prints of an ape be detected from those
of a man?"
"Probably, because the ape's would be far simpler than
those of the higher organism."
"But a cross between an ape and a man might show the
characteristics of either progenitor?" continued Tarzan.
"Yes, I should think likely," responded the official; "but
the science has not progressed sufficiently to render it exact
enough in such matters. I should hate to trust its findings
further than to differentiate between individuals. There it is
absolute. No two people born into the world probably have ever
had identical lines upon all their digits. It is very doubtful if
any single fingerprint will ever be exactly duplicated by any
finger other than the one which originally made it."
"Does the comparison require much time or labor?" asked D'Arnot.
"Ordinarily but a few moments, if the impressions are distinct."
D'Arnot drew a little black book from his pocket and commenced
turning the pages.
Tarzan looked at the book in surprise. How did D'Arnot
come to have his book?
Presently D'Arnot stopped at a page on which were five
tiny little smudges.
He handed the open book to the policeman.
"Are these imprints similar to mine or Monsieur Tarzan's
or can you say that they are identical with either?"
The officer drew a powerful glass from his desk and
examined all three specimens carefully, making notations
meanwhile upon a pad of paper.
Tarzan realized now what was the meaning of their visit to
the police officer.
The answer to his life's riddle lay in these tiny marks.
With tense nerves he sat leaning forward in his chair, but
suddenly he relaxed and dropped back, smiling.
D'Arnot looked at him in surprise.
"You forget that for twenty years the dead body of the
child who made those fingerprints lay in the cabin of his
father, and that all my life I have seen it lying there,"
said Tarzan bitterly.
The policeman looked up in astonishment.
"Go ahead, captain, with your examination," said D'Arnot,
"we will tell you the story later--provided Monsieur Tarzan
Tarzan nodded his head.
"But you are mad, my dear D'Arnot," he insisted. "Those
little fingers are buried on the west coast of Africa."
"I do not know as to that, Tarzan," replied D'Arnot. "It is
possible, but if you are not the son of John Clayton then how
in heaven's name did you come into that God forsaken jungle
where no white man other than John Clayton had ever set foot?"
"You forget--Kala," said Tarzan.
"I do not even consider her," replied D'Arnot.
The friends had walked to the broad window overlooking
the boulevard as they talked. For some time they stood there
gazing out upon the busy throng beneath, each wrapped in
his own thoughts.
"It takes some time to compare finger prints," thought
D'Arnot, turning to look at the police officer.
To his astonishment he saw the official leaning back in his
chair hastily scanning the contents of the little black diary.
D'Arnot coughed. The policeman looked up, and, catching his
eye, raised his finger to admonish silence. D'Arnot turned
back to the window, and presently the police officer spoke.
"Gentlemen," he said.
Both turned toward him.
"There is evidently a great deal at stake which must hinge
to a greater or lesser extent upon the absolute correctness of
this comparison. I therefore ask that you leave the entire
matter in my hands until Monsieur Desquerc, our expert
returns. It will be but a matter of a few days."
"I had hoped to know at once," said D'Arnot. "Monsieur
Tarzan sails for America tomorrow."
"I will promise that you can cable him a report within two
weeks," replied the officer; "but what it will be I dare not say.
There are resemblances, yet--well, we had better leave it for
Monsieur Desquerc to solve."
Tarzan of the Apes Chapter 25
... Tarzan of the Apes Chapter 27