The Treasure Vaults of Opar
It was quite dark before La, the high priestess, returned to
the Chamber of the dead with food and drink for Tarzan.
She bore no light, feeling with her hands along the
crumbling walls until she gained the chamber. Through the
stone grating above, a tropic moon served dimly to illuminate
Tarzan, crouching in the shadows at the far side of the
room as the first sound of approaching footsteps reached him,
came forth to meet the girl as he recognized that it was she.
"They are furious," were her first words. "Never before
has a human sacrifice escaped the altar. Already fifty have
gone forth to track you down. They have searched the
temple--all save this single room."
"Why do they fear to come here?" he asked.
"It is the Chamber of the dead. Here the dead return to worship.
See this ancient altar? It is here that the dead sacrifice the
living--if they find a victim here. That is the reason
our people shun this chamber. Were one to enter he knows
that the waiting dead would seize him for their sacrifice."
"But you?" he asked.
"I am high priestess--I alone am safe from the dead.
It is I who at rare intervals bring them a human sacrifice
from the world above. I alone may enter here in safety."
"Why have they not seized me?" he asked, humoring her
She looked at him quizzically for a moment. Then she replied:
"It is the duty of a high priestess to instruct, to interpret--
according to the creed that others, wiser than herself, have
laid down; but there is nothing in the creed which says that
she must believe. The more one knows of one's religion the
less one believes--no one living knows more of mine than I."
"Then your only fear in aiding me to escape is that your
fellow mortals may discover your duplicity?"
"That is all--the dead are dead; they cannot harm--or help.
We must therefore depend entirely upon ourselves, and the
sooner we act the better it will be. I had difficulty in
eluding their vigilance but now in bringing you this morsel
of food. To attempt to repeat the thing daily would be the
height of folly. Come, let us see how far we may go toward
liberty before I must return."
She led him back to the chamber beneath the altar room.
Here she turned into one of the several corridors leading
from it. In the darkness Tarzan could not see which one.
For ten minutes they groped slowly along a winding passage,
until at length they came to a closed door. Here he heard
her fumbling with a key, and presently came the sound of a
metal bolt grating against metal. The door swung in on
scraping hinges, and they entered.
"You will be safe here until tomorrow night," she said.
Then she went out, and, closing the door, locked it behind her.
Where Tarzan stood it was dark as Erebus. Not even his
trained eyes could penetrate the utter blackness.
Cautiously he moved forward until his out-stretched hand
touched a wall, then very slowly he traveled around the
four walls of the chamber.
Apparently it was about twenty feet square. The floor
was of concrete, the walls of the dry masonry that marked
the method of construction above ground. Small pieces of
granite of various sizes were ingeniously laid together
without mortar to construct these ancient foundations.
The first time around the walls Tarzan thought he detected
a strange phenomenon for a room with no windows but a
single door. Again he crept carefully around close to
the wall. No, he could not be mistaken! He paused before
the center of the wall opposite the door. For a moment he
stood quite motionless, then he moved a few feet to one side.
Again he returned, only to move a few feet to the other side.
Once more he made the entire circuit of the room, feeling
carefully every foot of the walls. Finally he stopped again
before the particular section that had aroused his curiosity.
There was no doubt of it! A distinct draft of fresh air was
blowing into the chamber through the intersection of the
masonry at that particular point--and nowhere else.
Tarzan tested several pieces of the granite which made up
the wall at this spot, and finally was rewarded by finding
one which lifted out readily. It was about ten inches wide,
with a face some three by six inches showing within the chamber.
One by one the ape-man lifted out similarly shaped stones.
The wall at this point was constructed entirely, it seemed,
of these almost perfect slabs. In a short time he had
removed some dozen, when he reached in to test the next
layer of masonry. To his surprise, he felt nothing behind the
masonry he had removed as far as his long arm could reach.
It was a matter of but a few minutes to remove enough
of the wall to permit his body to pass through the aperture.
Directly ahead of him he thought he discerned a faint glow
--scarcely more than a less impenetrable darkness.
Cautiously he moved forward on hands and knees, until at about
fifteen feet, or the average thickness of the foundation
walls, the floor ended abruptly in a sudden drop. As far out
as he could reach he felt nothing, nor could he find the
bottom of the black abyss that yawned before him, though,
clinging to the edge of the floor, he lowered his body into
the darkness to its full length.
Finally it occurred to him to look up, and there above him
he saw through a round opening a tiny circular patch of
starry sky. Feeling up along the sides of the shaft as far
as he could reach, the ape-man discovered that so much of
the wall as he could feel converged toward the center of
the shaft as it rose. This fact precluded possibility of
escape in that direction.
As he sat speculating on the nature and uses of this
strange passage and its terminal shaft, the moon topped
the opening above, letting a flood of soft, silvery light into
the shadowy place. Instantly the nature of the shaft became
apparent to Tarzan, for far below him he saw the shimmering
surface of water. He had come upon an ancient well--but
what was the purpose of the connection between the well
and the dungeon in which he had been hidden?
As the moon crossed the opening of the shaft its light
flooded the whole interior, and then Tarzan saw directly
across from him another opening in the opposite wall.
He wondered if this might not be the mouth of a passage
leading to possible escape. It would be worth investigating,
at least, and this he determined to do.
Quickly returning to the wall he had demolished to
explore what lay beyond it, he carried the stones into the
passageway and replaced them from that side. The deep deposit
of dust which he had noticed upon the blocks as he
had first removed them from the wall had convinced him
that even if the present occupants of the ancient pile had
knowledge of this hidden passage they had made no use of
it for perhaps generations.
The wall replaced, Tarzan turned to the shaft, which was
some fifteen feet wide at this point. To leap across the
intervening space was a small matter to the ape-man, and a
moment later he was proceeding along a narrow tunnel,
moving cautiously for fear of being precipitated into another
shaft such as he had just crossed.
He had advanced some hundred feet when he came to a
flight of steps leading downward into Stygian gloom.
Some twenty feet below, the level floor of the tunnel
recommenced, and shortly afterward his progress was stopped
by a heavy wooden door which was secured by massive wooden
bars upon the side of Tarzan's approach. This fact suggested
to the ape-man that he might surely be in a passageway
leading to the outer world, for the bolts, barring progress
from the opposite side, tended to substantiate this hypothesis,
unless it were merely a prison to which it led.
Along the tops of the bars were deep layers of dust--a further
indication that the passage had lain long unused. As he
pushed the massive obstacle aside, its great hinges shrieked
out in weird protest against this unaccustomed disturbance.
For a moment Tarzan paused to listen for any responsive
note which might indicate that the unusual night
noise had alarmed the inmates of the temple; but as he heard
nothing he advanced beyond the doorway.
Carefully feeling about, he found himself within a large
chamber, along the walls of which, and down the length of
the floor, were piled many tiers of metal ingots of an odd
though uniform shape. To his groping hands they felt not
unlike double-headed bootjacks. The ingots were quite
heavy, and but for the enormous number of them he would
have been positive that they were gold; but the thought of
the fabulous wealth these thousands of pounds of metal
would have represented were they in reality gold, almost
convinced him that they must be of some baser metal.
At the far end of the chamber he discovered another
barred door, and again the bars upon the inside renewed
the hope that he was traversing an ancient and forgotten
passageway to liberty. Beyond the door the passage ran
straight as a war spear, and it soon became evident to
the ape-man that it had already led him beyond the outer
walls of the temple. If he but knew the direction it was
leading him! If toward the west, then he must also be
beyond the city's outer walls.
With increasing hopes he forged ahead as rapidly as he
dared, until at the end of half an hour he came to another
flight of steps leading upward. At the bottom this
flight was of concrete, but as he ascended his naked feet
felt a sudden change in the substance they were treading.
The steps of concrete had given place to steps of granite.
Feeling with his hands, the ape-man discovered that these
latter were evidently hewed from rock, for there was no
crack to indicate a joint.
For a hundred feet the steps wound spirally up, until at a
sudden turning Tarzan came into a narrow cleft between
two rocky walls. Above him shone the starry sky, and before
him a steep incline replaced the steps that had terminated
at its foot. Up this pathway Tarzan hastened, and at
its upper end came out upon the rough top of a huge
A mile away lay the ruined city of Opar, its domes and
turrets bathed in the soft light of the equatorial moon.
Tarzan dropped his eyes to the ingot he had brought away
with him. For a moment he examined it by the moon's bright
rays, then he raised his head to look out upon the ancient
piles of crumbling grandeur in the distance.
"Opar," he mused, "Opar, the enchanted city of a dead
and forgotten past. The city of the beauties and the beasts.
City of horrors and death; but--city of fabulous riches."
The ingot was of virgin gold.
The bowlder on which Tarzan found himself lay well out
in the plain between the city and the distant cliffs he and his
black warriors had scaled the morning previous. To descend
its rough and precipitous face was a task of infinite labor
and considerable peril even to the ape-man; but at last he
felt the soft soil of the valley beneath his feet, and without
a backward glance at Opar he turned his face toward the
guardian cliffs, and at a rapid trot set off across the valley.
The sun was just rising as he gained the summit of the
flat mountain at the valley's western boundary. Far beneath
him he saw smoke arising above the tree-tops of the forest
at the base of the foothills.
"man," he murmured. "And there were fifty who went
forth to track me down. Can it be they?"
Swiftly he descended the face of the cliff, and, dropping
into a narrow ravine which led down to the far forest, he
hastened onward in the direction of the smoke. Striking the
forest's edge about a quarter of a mile from the point at
which the slender column arose into the still air, he took to
the trees. Cautiously he approached until there suddenly
burst upon his view a rude BOMA, in the center of which,
squatted about their tiny fires, sat his fifty black Waziri.
He called to them in their own tongue:
"Arise, my children, and greet thy king!"
With exclamations of surprise and fear the warriors leaped
to their feet, scarcely knowing whether to flee or not.
Then Tarzan dropped lightly from an overhanging branch into
their midst. When they realized that it was indeed their
chief in the flesh, and no materialized spirit, they went mad
"We were cowards, oh, Waziri," cried Busuli. "We ran
away and left you to your fate; but when our panic was
over we swore to return and save you, or at least take
revenge upon your murderers. We were but now preparing to
scale the heights once more and cross the desolate valley to
the terrible city."
"Have you seen fifty frightful men pass down from the
cliffs into this forest, my children?" asked Tarzan.
"Yes, Waziri," replied Busuli. "They passed us late yesterday,
as we were about to turn back after you. They had no woodcraft.
We heard them coming for a mile before we saw them, and as we
had other business in hand we withdrew into the forest and let
them pass. They were waddling rapidly along upon short legs,
and now and then one would go upon all fours like Bolgani,
the gorilla. They were indeed fifty frightful men, Waziri."
When Tarzan had related his adventures and told them
of the yellow metal he had found, not one demurred when
he outlined a plan to return by night and bring away what
they could carry of the vast treasure; and so it was that as
dusk fell across the desolate valley of Opar fifty ebon
warriors trailed at a smart trot over the dry and dusty
ground toward the giant bowlder that loomed before the city.
If it had seemed a difficult task to descend the face of
the bowlder, Tarzan soon found that it would be next to
impossible to get his fifty warriors to the summit. Finally the
feat was accomplished by dint of herculean efforts upon the
part of the ape-man. Ten spears were fastened end to end,
and with one end of this remarkable chain attached to his
waist, Tarzan at last succeeded in reaching the summit.
Once there, he drew up one of his blacks, and in this way
the entire party was finally landed in safety upon the
bowlder's top. Immediately Tarzan led them to the
treasure chamber, where to each was allotted a load of
two ingots, for each about eighty pounds.
By midnight the entire party stood once more at the
foot of the bowlder, but with their heavy loads it was mid-
forenoon ere they reached the summit of the cliffs.
From there on the homeward journey was slow, as these proud
fighting men were unaccustomed to the duties of porters.
But they bore their burdens uncomplainingly, and at the end
of thirty days entered their own country.
Here, instead of continuing on toward the northwest and
their village, Tarzan guided them almost directly west, until
on the morning of the thirty-third day he bade them break
camp and return to their own village, leaving the gold where
they had stacked it the previous night.
"And you, Waziri?" they asked.
"I shall remain here for a few days, my children," he replied.
"Now hasten back to thy wives and children."
When they had gone Tarzan gathered up two of the ingots
and, springing into a tree, ran lightly above the tangled and
impenetrable mass of undergrowth for a couple of hundred yards,
to emerge suddenly upon a circular clearing about which the
giants of the jungle forest towered like a guardian host.
In the center of this natural amphitheater, was a little
flat-topped mound of hard earth.
Hundreds of times before had Tarzan been to this secluded
spot, which was so densely surrounded by thorn bushes
and tangled vines and creepers of huge girth that
not even Sheeta, the leopard, could worm his sinuous way
within, nor Tantor, with his giant strength, force the
barriers which protected the council chamber of the great
apes from all but the harmless denizens of the savage jungle.
Fifty trips Tarzan made before he had deposited all the
ingots within the precincts of the amphitheater. Then from
the hollow of an ancient, lightning-blasted tree he produced
the very spade with which he had uncovered the chest of
Professor Archimedes Q. Porter which he had once, apelike,
buried in this selfsame spot. With this he dug a long trench,
into which he laid the fortune that his blacks had carried
from the forgotten treasure vaults of the city of Opar.
That night he slept within the amphitheater, and early the
next morning set out to revisit his cabin before returning to
his Waziri. Finding things as he had left them, he went
forth into the jungle to hunt, intending to bring his prey to
the cabin where he might feast in comfort, spending the
night upon a comfortable couch.
For five miles toward the south he roamed, toward the
banks of a fair-sized river that flowed into the sea about six
miles from his cabin. He had gone inland about half a mile
when there came suddenly to his trained nostrils the one
scent that sets the whole savage jungle aquiver--Tarzan
The wind was blowing off the ocean, so Tarzan knew that
the authors of the scent were west of him. Mixed with the
man scent was the scent of Numa. man and lion.
"I had better hasten," thought the ape-man, for he had
recognized the scent of whites. "Numa may be a-hunting."
When he came through the trees to the edge of the jungle
he saw a woman kneeling in prayer, and before her stood a
wild, primitive-looking white man, his face buried in his arms.
Behind the man a mangy lion was advancing slowly toward this
easy prey. The man's face was averted; the woman's bowed
in prayer. He could not see the features of either.
Already Numa was about to spring. There was not a
second to spare. Tarzan could not even unsling his bow and
fit an arrow in time to send one of his deadly poisoned
shafts into the yellow hide. He was too far away to reach
the beast in time with his knife. There was but a single
hope--a lone alternative. And with the quickness of thought
the ape-man acted.
A brawny arm flew back--for the briefest fraction of an
instant a huge spear poised above the giant's shoulder--and
then the mighty arm shot out, and swift death tore through
the intervening leaves to bury itself in the heart of the
leaping lion. Without a sound he rolled over at the very
feet of his intended victims--dead.
For a moment neither the man nor the woman moved. Then the
latter opened her eyes to look with wonder upon the dead
beast behind her companion. As that beautiful head went
up Tarzan of the Apes gave a gasp of incredulous astonishment.
Was he mad? It could not be the woman he loved!
But, indeed, it was none other.
And the woman rose, and the man took her in his arms
to kiss her, and of a sudden the ape-man saw red through
a bloody mist of murder, and the old scar upon his
forehead burned scarlet against his brown hide.
There was a terrible expression upon his savage face as he
fitted a poisoned shaft to his bow. An ugly light gleamed
in those gray eyes as he sighted full at the back of the
unsuspecting man beneath him.
For an instant he glanced along the polished shaft,
drawing the bowstring far back, that the arrow might pierce
through the heart for which it was aimed.
But he did not release the fatal messenger. Slowly the
point of the arrow drooped; the scar upon the brown
forehead faded; the bowstring relaxed; and Tarzan of the Apes,
with bowed head, turned sadly into the jungle toward the
village of the Waziri.
Return of Tarzan Chapter 21
... Return of Tarzan Chapter 23