The Fifty Frightful Men
For several long minutes Jane Porter and William Cecil
Clayton stood silently looking at the dead body of the
beast whose prey they had so narrowly escaped becoming.
The girl was the first to speak again after her outbreak
of impulsive avowal.
"Who could it have been?" she whispered.
"God knows!" was the man's only reply.
"If it is a friend, why does he not show himself?"
continued Jane. "Wouldn't it be well to call out to him,
and at least thank him?"
Mechanically Clayton did her bidding, but there was no response.
Jane Porter shuddered. "The mysterious jungle," she murmured.
"The terrible jungle. It renders even the manifestations of
"We had best return to the shelter," said Clayton. "You
will be at least a little safer there. I am no protection
whatever," he added bitterly.
"Do not say that, William," she hastened to urge, acutely
sorry for the wound her words had caused. "You have
done the best you could. You have been noble, and self-
sacrificing, and brave. It is no fault of yours that you are
not a superman. There is only one other man I have ever
known who could have done more than you. My words were
ill chosen in the excitement of the reaction--I did not wish
to wound you. All that I wish is that we may both understand
once and for all that I can never marry you--that such a
marriage would be wicked."
"I think I understand," he replied. "Let us not speak of
it again--at least until we are back in civilization."
The next day Thuran was worse. Almost constantly he was in
a state of delirium. They could do nothing to relieve him,
nor was Clayton over-anxious to attempt anything. On the
girl's account he feared the Russian--in the bottom
of his heart he hoped the man would die. The thought
that something might befall him that would leave her
entirely at the mercy of this beast caused him greater
anxiety than the probability that almost certain death
awaited her should she be left entirely alone upon the
outskirts of the cruel forest.
The Englishman had extracted the heavy spear from the body
of the lion, so that when he went into the forest to hunt
that morning he had a feeling of much greater security than
at any time since they had been cast upon the savage shore.
The result was that he penetrated farther from the shelter
than ever before.
To escape as far as possible from the mad ravings of the
fever-stricken Russian, Jane Porter had descended from the
shelter to the foot of the tree--she dared not venture farther.
Here, beside the crude ladder Clayton had constructed for her,
she sat looking out to sea, in the always surviving hope
that a vessel might be sighted.
Her back was toward the jungle, and so she did not see
the grasses part, or the savage face that peered from between.
Little, bloodshot, close-set eyes scanned her intently,
roving from time to time about the open beach for indications
of the presence of others than herself. Presently another
head appeared, and then another and another. The man in
the shelter commenced to rave again, and the heads
disappeared as silently and as suddenly as they had come.
But soon they were thrust forth once more, as the girl
gave no sign of perturbation at the continued wailing
of the man above.
One by one grotesque forms emerged from the jungle to
creep stealthily upon the unsuspecting woman. A faint
rustling of the grasses attracted her attention. She turned,
and at the sight that confronted her staggered to her
feet with a little shriek of fear. Then they closed upon her
with a rush. Lifting her bodily in his long, gorilla-like arms,
one of the creatures turned and bore her into the jungle.
A filthy paw covered her mouth to stifle her screams.
Added to the weeks of torture she had already undergone,
the shock was more than she could withstand. Shattered nerves
collapsed, and she lost consciousness.
When she regained her senses she found herself in the
thick of the primeval forest. It was night. A huge fire burned
brightly in the little clearing in which she lay. About it
squatted fifty frightful men. Their heads and faces were
covered with matted hair. Their long arms rested upon the bent
knees of their short, crooked legs. They were gnawing, like
beasts, upon unclean food. A pot boiled upon the edge of the
fire, and out of it one of the creatures would occasionally
drag a hunk of meat with a sharpened stick.
When they discovered that their captive had regained
consciousness, a piece of this repulsive stew was tossed to her
from the foul hand of a nearby feaster. It rolled close to her
side, but she only closed her eyes as a qualm of nausea
surged through her.
For many days they traveled through the dense forest. The girl,
footsore and exhausted, was half dragged, half pushed through
the long, hot, tedious days. Occasionally, when she would
stumble and fall, she was cuffed and kicked by the nearest
of the frightful men. Long before they reached their
journey's end her shoes had been discarded--the soles
entirely gone. Her clothes were torn to mere shreds and
tatters, and through the pitiful rags her once white and
tender skin showed raw and bleeding from contact with the
thousand pitiless thorns and brambles through which she
had been dragged.
The last two days of the journey found her in such utter
exhaustion that no amount of kicking and abuse could force
her to her poor, bleeding feet. Outraged nature had reached
the limit of endurance, and the girl was physically powerless
to raise herself even to her knees.
As the beasts surrounded her, chattering threateningly the
while they goaded her with their cudgels and beat and kicked
her with their fists and feet, she lay with closed eyes,
praying for the merciful death that she knew alone could
give her surcease from suffering; but it did not come, and
presently the fifty frightful men realized that their victim
was no longer able to walk, and so they picked her up and
carried her the balance of the journey.
Late one afternoon she saw the ruined walls of a mighty
city looming before them, but so weak and sick was she
that it inspired not the faintest shadow of interest.
Wherever they were bearing her, there could be but one
end to her captivity among these fierce half brutes.
At last they passed through two great walls and came
to the ruined city within. Into a crumbling pile they bore
her, and here she was surrounded by hundreds more of the
same creatures that had brought her; but among them were
females who looked less horrible. At sight of them the
first faint hope that she had entertained came to mitigate
her misery. But it was short-lived, for the women offered
her no sympathy, though, on the other hand, neither did
they abuse her.
After she had been inspected to the entire satisfaction
of the inmates of the building she was borne to a dark
chamber in the vaults beneath, and here upon the bare floor
she was left, with a metal bowl of water and another of food.
For a week she saw only some of the women whose duty
it was to bring her food and water. Slowly her strength was
returning--soon she would be in fit condition to offer as
a sacrifice to The Flaming God. Fortunate indeed it was that
she could not know the fate for which she was destined.
As Tarzan of the Apes moved slowly through the jungle
after casting the spear that saved Clayton and Jane Porter
from the fangs of Numa, his mind was filled with all the
sorrow that belongs to a freshly opened heart wound.
He was glad that he had stayed his hand in time to
prevent the consummation of the thing that in the first mad
wave of jealous wrath he had contemplated. Only the fraction
of a second had stood between Clayton and death at the
hands of the ape-man. In the short moment that had
elapsed after he had recognized the girl and her companion
and the relaxing of the taut muscles that held the poisoned
shaft directed at the Englishman's heart, Tarzan had been
swayed by the swift and savage impulses of brute life.
He had seen the woman he craved--his woman--his mate
--in the arms of another. There had been but one course
open to him, according to the fierce jungle code that guided
him in this other existence; but just before it had become
too late the softer sentiments of his inherent chivalry had
risen above the flaming fires of his passion and saved him.
A thousand times he gave thanks that they had triumphed
before his fingers had released that polished arrow.
As he contemplated his return to the Waziri the idea became
repugnant. He did not wish to see a human being again.
At least he would range alone through the jungle for a time,
until the sharp edge of his sorrow had become blunted. Like his
fellow beasts, he preferred to suffer in silence and alone.
That night he slept again in the amphitheater of the apes,
and for several days he hunted from there, returning at night.
On the afternoon of the third day he returned early.
He had lain stretched upon the soft grass of the circular
clearing for but a few moments when he heard far to the
south a familiar sound. It was the passing through the
jungle of a band of great apes--he could not mistake that.
For several minutes he lay listening. They were coming
in the direction of the amphitheater.
Tarzan arose lazily and stretched himself. His keen ears
followed every movement of the advancing tribe. They were
upwind, and presently he caught their scent, though he had
not needed this added evidence to assure him that he was right.
As they came closer to the amphitheater Tarzan of the Apes
melted into the branches upon the other side of the arena.
There he waited to inspect the newcomers. Nor had he long
Presently a fierce, hairy face appeared among the lower
branches opposite him. The cruel little eyes took in the
clearing at a glance, then there was a chattered report
returned to those behind. Tarzan could hear the words.
The scout was telling the other members of the tribe that the
coast was clear and that they might enter the amphitheater
First the leader dropped lightly upon the soft carpet of
the grassy floor, and then, one by one, nearly a hundred
anthropoids followed him. There were the huge adults and
several young. A few nursing babes clung close to the
shaggy necks of their savage mothers.
Tarzan recognized many members of the tribe. It was
the same into which he had come as a tiny babe. Many of
the adults had been little apes during his boyhood. He had
frolicked and played about this very jungle with them
during their brief childhood. He wondered if they would
remember him--the memory of some apes is not overlong, and
two years may be an eternity to them.
From the talk which he overheard he learned that they
had come to choose a new king--their late chief had fallen a
hundred feet beneath a broken limb to an untimely end.
Tarzan walked to the end of an overhanging limb in
plain view of them. The quick eyes of a female caught
sight of him first. With a barking guttural she called
the attention of the others. Several huge bulls stood
erect to get a better view of the intruder. With bared
fangs and bristling necks they advanced slowly toward him,
with deep-throated, ominous growls.
"Karnath, I am Tarzan of the Apes," said the ape-man in
the vernacular of the tribe. "You remember me. Together we
teased Numa when we were still little apes, throwing sticks
and nuts at him from the safety of high branches."
The brute he had addressed stopped with a look of half-
comprehending, dull wonderment upon his savage face.
"And Magor," continued Tarzan, addressing another, "do you
not recall your former king--he who slew the mighty Kerchak?
Look at me! Am I not the same Tarzan--mighty hunter--invincible
fighter--that you all knew for many seasons?"
The apes all crowded forward now, but more in curiosity
than threatening. They muttered among themselves for
a few moments.
"What do you want among us now?" asked Karnath.
"Only peace," answered the ape-man.
Again the apes conferred. At length Karnath spoke again.
"Come in peace, then, Tarzan of the Apes," he said.
And so Tarzan of the Apes dropped lightly to the turf
into the midst of the fierce and hideous horde--he had
completed the cycle of evolution, and had returned to be once
again a brute among brutes.
There were no greetings such as would have taken place
among men after a separation of two years. The majority
of the apes went on about the little activities that the
advent of the ape-man had interrupted, paying no further
attention to him than as though he had not been gone from
the tribe at all.
One or two young bulls who had not been old enough
to remember him sidled up on all fours to sniff at him, and
one bared his fangs and growled threateningly--he wished
to put Tarzan immediately into his proper place. Had Tarzan
backed off, growling, the young bull would quite probably
have been satisfied, but always after Tarzan's station among
his fellow apes would have been beneath that of the bull
which had made him step aside.
But Tarzan of the Apes did not back off. Instead, he swung
his giant palm with all the force of his mighty muscles, and,
catching the young bull alongside the head, sent him
sprawling across the turf. The ape was up and at him again
in a second, and this time they closed with tearing fingers
and rending fangs--or at least that had been the intention of
the young bull; but scarcely had they gone down, growling
and snapping, than the ape-man's fingers found the throat
of his antagonist.
Presently the young bull ceased to struggle, and lay quite still.
Then Tarzan released his hold and arose--he did not wish to kill,
only to teach the young ape, and others who might be watching,
that Tarzan of the Apes was still master.
The lesson served its purpose--the young apes kept out
of his way, as young apes should when their betters were
about, and the old bulls made no attempt to encroach upon
his prerogatives. For several days the she-apes with young
remained suspicious of him, and when he ventured too near
rushed upon him with wide mouths and hideous roars.
Then Tarzan discreetly skipped out of harm's way, for
that also is a custom among the apes--only mad bulls will
attack a mother. But after a while even they became
accustomed to him.
He hunted with them as in days gone by, and when they
found that his superior reason guided him to the best food
sources, and that his cunning rope ensnared toothsome game
that they seldom if ever tasted, they came again to look up
to him as they had in the past after he had become their king.
And so it was that before they left the amphitheater to return
to their wanderings they had once more chosen him as their leader.
The ape-man felt quite contented with his new lot. He was
not happy--that he never could be again, but he was at
least as far from everything that might remind him of his
past misery as he could be. Long since he had given up every
intention of returning to civilization, and now he had decided
to see no more his black friends of the Waziri. He had
foresworn humanity forever. He had started life an ape--as
an ape he would die.
He could not, however, erase from his memory the fact
that the woman he loved was within a short journey of the
stamping-ground of his tribe; nor could he banish the
haunting fear that she might be constantly in danger.
That she was illy protected he had seen in the brief
instant that had witnessed Clayton's inefficiency.
The more Tarzan thought of it, the more keenly his
conscience pricked him.
Finally he came to loathe himself for permitting his own selfish
sorrow and jealousy to stand between Jane Porter and safety.
As the days passed the thing preyed more and more upon
his mind, and he had about determined to return to the
coast and place himself on guard over Jane Porter and
Clayton, when news reached him that altered all his plans
and sent him dashing madly toward the east in reckless
disregard of accident and death.
Before Tarzan had returned to the tribe, a certain young
bull, not being able to secure a mate from among his own
people, had, according to custom, fared forth through the
wild jungle, like some knight-errant of old, to win a fair
lady from some neighboring community.
He had but just returned with his bride, and was narrating his
adventures quickly before he should forget them. Among other
things he told of seeing a great tribe of strange-looking apes.
"They were all hairy-faced bulls but one," he said, "and
that one was a she, lighter in color even than this stranger,"
and he chucked a thumb at Tarzan.
The ape-man was all attention in an instant. He asked
questions as rapidly as the slow-witted anthropoid could
"Were the bulls short, with crooked legs?"
"Did they wear the skins of Numa and Sheeta about their
loins, and carry sticks and knives?"
"And were there many yellow rings about their arms and legs?"
"And the she one--was she small and slender, and very white?"
"Did she seem to be one of the tribe, or was she a prisoner?"
"They dragged her along--sometimes by an arm--sometimes
by the long hair that grew upon her head; and always they
kicked and beat her. Oh, but it was great fun to watch them."
"God!" muttered Tarzan.
"Where were they when you saw them, and which way
were they going?" continued the ape-man.
"They were beside the second water back there," and he
pointed to the south. "When they passed me they were going
toward the morning, upward along the edge of the water."
"When was this?" asked Tarzan.
"Half a moon since."
Without another word the ape-man sprang into the trees
and fled like a disembodied spirit eastward in the direction
of the forgotten city of Opar.
Return of Tarzan Chapter 22
... Return of Tarzan Chapter 24