Through the Forest Primeval
For a brief, sickening moment Tarzan felt the slipping of
the rope to which he clung, and heard the scraping of
the block of stone against the masonry above.
Then of a sudden the rope was still--the stone had caught at
the very edge. Gingerly the ape-man clambered up the frail rope.
In a moment his head was above the edge of the shaft.
The court was empty. The inhabitants of Opar were viewing
the sacrifice. Tarzan could hear the voice of La from the
nearby sacrificial court. The dance had ceased. It must be
almost time for the knife to fall; but even as he thought these
things he was running rapidly toward the sound of the high
Fate guided him to the very doorway of the great roofless chamber.
Between him and the altar was the long row of priests and
priestesses, awaiting with their golden cups the spilling
of the warm blood of their victim. La's hand was descending
slowly toward the bosom of the frail, quiet figure that lay
stretched upon the hard stone. Tarzan gave a gasp that was
almost a sob as he recognized the features of the girl he loved.
And then the scar upon his forehead turned to a flaming band of
scarlet, a red mist floated before his eyes, and, with the
awful roar of the bull ape gone mad, he sprang like a huge
lion into the midst of the votaries.
Seizing a cudgel from the nearest priest, he laid about him like
a veritable demon as he forged his rapid way toward the altar.
The hand of La had paused at the first noise of interruption.
When she saw who the author of it was she went white.
She had never been able to fathom the secret of the
strange white man's escape from the dungeon in which she
had locked him. She had not intended that he should ever
leave Opar, for she had looked upon his giant frame and
handsome face with the eyes of a woman and not those
of a priestess.
In her clever mind she had concocted a story of wonderful
revelation from the lips of the flaming God himself,
in which she had been ordered to receive this white
stranger as a messenger from him to his people on earth.
That would satisfy the people of Opar, she knew. The man
would be satisfied, she felt quite sure, to remain and be her
husband rather than to return to the sacrificial altar.
But when she had gone to explain her plan to him he
had disappeared, though the door had been tightly locked
as she had left it. And now he had returned--materialized
from thin air--and was killing her priests as though they
had been sheep. For the moment she forgot her victim,
and before she could gather her wits together again the
huge white man was standing before her, the woman who had
lain upon the altar in his arms.
"One side, La," he cried. "You saved me once, and so I
would not harm you; but do not interfere or attempt to
follow, or I shall have to kill you also."
As he spoke he stepped past her toward the entrance to the
"Who is she?" asked the high priestess, pointing at
the unconscious woman.
"She is mine," said Tarzan of the Apes.
For a moment the girl of Opar stood wide-eyed and staring.
Then a look of hopeless misery suffused her eyes--
tears welled into them, and with a little cry she sank to
the cold floor, just as a swarm of frightful men dashed past
her to leap upon the ape-man.
But Tarzan of the Apes was not there when they reached
out to seize him. With a light bound he had disappeared
into the passage leading to the pits below, and when his
pursuers came more cautiously after they found the chamber
empty, they but laughed and jabbered to one another, for
they knew that there was no exit from the pits other than the
one through which he had entered. If he came out at all he
must come this way, and they would wait and watch for him above.
And so Tarzan of the Apes, carrying the unconscious Jane
Porter, came through the pits of Opar beneath the temple of
The Flaming God without pursuit. But when the men of
Opar had talked further about the matter, they recalled to
mind that this very man had escaped once before into the
pits, and, though they had watched the entrance he had
not come forth; and yet today he had come upon them from
the outside. They would again send fifty men out into the
valley to find and capture this desecrater of their temple.
After Tarzan reached the shaft beyond the broken wall,
he felt so positive of the successful issue of his flight that
he stopped to replace the tumbled stones, for he was not
anxious that any of the inmates should discover this
forgotten passage, and through it come upon the treasure chamber.
It was in his mind to return again to Opar and bear away
a still greater fortune than he had already buried in the
amphitheater of the apes.
On through the passageways he trotted, past the first door
and through the treasure vault; past the second door and
into the long, straight tunnel that led to the lofty hidden
exit beyond the city. Jane Porter was still unconscious.
At the crest of the great bowlder he halted to cast a
backward glance toward the city. Coming across the plain
he saw a band of the hideous men of Opar. For a moment
he hesitated. Should he descend and make a race for the distant
cliffs, or should he hide here until night? And then a glance at
the girl's white face determined him. He could not keep her
here and permit her enemies to get between them and liberty.
For aught he knew they might have been followed
through the tunnels, and to have foes before and behind
would result in almost certain capture, since he could not
fight his way through the enemy burdened as he was with
the unconscious girl.
To descend the steep face of the bowlder with Jane
Porter was no easy task, but by binding her across his
shoulders with the grass rope he succeeded in reaching the
ground in safety before the Oparians arrived at the great rock.
As the descent had been made upon the side away from the city,
the searching party saw nothing of it, nor did they dream
that their prey was so close before them.
By keeping the KOPJE between them and their pursuers,
Tarzan of the Apes managed to cover nearly a mile before
the men of Opar rounded the granite sentinel and saw
the fugitive before them. With loud cries of savage delight,
they broke into a mad run, thinking doubtless that they
would soon overhaul the burdened runner; but they both
underestimated the powers of the ape-man and overestimated
the possibilities of their own short, crooked legs.
By maintaining an easy trot, Tarzan kept the distance
between them always the same. Occasionally he would glance
at the face so near his own. Had it not been for the faint
beating of the heart pressed so close against his own, he
would not have known that she was alive, so white and drawn
was the poor, tired face.
And thus they came to the flat-topped mountain and the
barrier cliffs. During the last mile Tarzan had let himself out,
running like a deer that he might have ample time to descend
the face of the cliffs before the Oparians could reach the
summit and hurl rocks down upon them. And so it was that
he was half a mile down the mountainside ere the fierce little
men came panting to the edge.
With cries of rage and disappointment they ranged along
the cliff top shaking their cudgels, and dancing up and
down in a perfect passion of anger. But this time they did
not pursue beyond the boundary of their own country.
Whether it was because they recalled the futility of their
former long and irksome search, or after witnessing the ease
with which the ape-man swung along before them, and the
last burst of speed, they realized the utter hopelessness of
further pursuit, it is difficult to say; but as Tarzan reached
the woods that began at the base of the foothills which
skirted the barrier cliffs they turned their faces once more
Just within the forest's edge, where he could yet watch the
cliff tops, Tarzan laid his burden upon the grass, and going to
the near-by rivulet brought water with which he bathed
her face and hands; but even this did not revive her, and,
greatly worried, he gathered the girl into his strong arms once
more and hurried on toward the west.
Late in the afternoon Jane Porter regained consciousness.
She did not open her eyes at once--she was trying to recall
the scenes that she had last witnessed. Ah, she remembered now.
The altar, the terrible priestess, the descending knife.
She gave a little shudder, for she thought that either this was
death or that the knife had buried itself in her heart and
she was experiencing the brief delirium preceding death.
And when finally she mustered courage to open her eyes,
the sight that met them confirmed her fears, for she saw that
she was being borne through a leafy paradise in the arms
of her dead love. "If this be death," she murmured, "thank
God that I am dead."
"You spoke, Jane!" cried Tarzan. "You are regaining consciousness!"
"Yes, Tarzan of the Apes," she replied, and for the first
time in months a smile of peace and happiness lighted her face.
"Thank God!" cried the ape-man, coming to the ground in
a little grassy clearing beside the stream. "I was in time,
"In time? What do you mean?" she questioned.
"In time to save you from death upon the altar, dear,"
he replied. "Do you not remember?"
"Save me from death?" she asked, in a puzzled tone.
"Are we not both dead, my Tarzan?"
He had placed her upon the grass by now, her back resting
against the stem of a huge tree. At her question he
stepped back where he could the better see her face.
"dead!" he repeated, and then he laughed. "You are not,
Jane; and if you will return to the city of Opar and ask
them who dwell there they will tell you that I was not dead
a few short hours ago. No, dear, we are both very much alive."
"But both Hazel and Monsieur Thuran told me that you
had fallen into the ocean many miles from land," she urged,
as though trying to convince him that he must indeed
be dead. "They said that there was no question but that
it must have been you, and less that you could have survived
or been picked up."
"How can I convince you that I am no spirit?" he asked,
with a laugh. "It was I whom the delightful Monsieur Thuran
pushed overboard, but I did not drown--I will tell you all
about it after a while--and here I am very much the same
wild man you first knew, Jane Porter."
The girl rose slowly to her feet and came toward him.
"I cannot even yet believe it," she murmured. "It cannot
be that such happiness can be true after all the hideous
things that I have passed through these awful months since
the LADY ALICE went down."
She came close to him and laid a hand, soft and trembling,
upon his arm.
"It must be that I am dreaming, and that I shall awaken
in a moment to see that awful knife descending toward my
heart--kiss me, dear, just once before I lose my dream forever."
Tarzan of the Apes needed no second invitation. He took
the girl he loved in his strong arms, and kissed her not once,
but a hundred times, until she lay there panting for breath;
yet when he stopped she put her arms about his neck and
drew his lips down to hers once more.
"Am I alive and a reality, or am I but a dream?" he asked.
"If you are not alive, my man," she answered, "I pray
that I may die thus before I awaken to the terrible
realities of my last waking moments."
For a while both were silent--gazing into each others'
eyes as though each still questioned the reality of the
wonderful happiness that had come to them. The past, with all
its hideous disappointments and horrors, was forgotten--the
future did not belong to them; but the present--ah, it was
theirs; none could take it from them. It was the girl who
first broke the sweet silence.
"Where are we going, dear?" she asked. "What are we
going to do?"
"Where would you like best to go?" he asked. "What would
you like best to do?"
"To go where you go, my man; to do whatever seems
best to you," she answered.
"But Clayton?" he asked. For a moment he had forgotten
that there existed upon the earth other than they two.
"We have forgotten your husband."
"I am not married, Tarzan of the Apes," she cried.
"Nor am I longer promised in marriage. The day before those
awful creatures captured me I spoke to Mr. Clayton of my
love for you, and he understood then that I could not keep
the wicked promise that I had made. It was after we had
been miraculously saved from an attacking lion." She paused
suddenly and looked up at him, a questioning light in her eyes.
"Tarzan of the Apes," she cried, "it was you who did
that thing? It could have been no other."
He dropped his eyes, for he was ashamed.
"How could you have gone away and left me?" she cried reproachfully.
"Don't, Jane!" he pleaded. "Please don't! You cannot
know how I have suffered since for the cruelty of that act,
or how I suffered then, first in jealous rage, and then in
bitter resentment against the fate that I had not deserved.
I went back to the apes after that, Jane, intending never
again to see a human being." He told her then of his life
since he had returned to the jungle--of how he had dropped
like a plummet from a civilized Parisian to a savage Waziri
warrior, and from there back to the brute that he had been raised.
She asked him many questions, and at last fearfully of the
things that Monsieur Thuran had told her--of the woman in Paris.
He narrated every detail of his civilized life to her,
omitting nothing, for he felt no shame, since his heart always
had been true to her. When he had finished he sat looking at
her, as though waiting for her judgment, and his sentence.
"I knew that he was not speaking the truth," she said.
"Oh, what a horrible creature he is!"
"You are not angry with me, then?" he asked.
And her reply, though apparently most irrelevant, was
"Is Olga de Coude very beautiful?" she asked.
And Tarzan laughed and kissed her again. "Not one-tenth
so beautiful as you, dear," he said.
She gave a contented little sigh, and let her head rest
against his shoulder. He knew that he was forgiven.
That night Tarzan built a snug little bower high among
the swaying branches of a giant tree, and there the tired
girl slept, while in a crotch beneath her the ape-man curled,
ready, even in sleep, to protect her.
It took them many days to make the long journey to
the coast. Where the way was easy they walked hand in hand
beneath the arching boughs of the mighty forest, as might
in a far-gone past have walked their primeval forbears.
When the underbrush was tangled he took her in his great arms,
and bore her lightly through the trees, and the days were all
too short, for they were very happy. Had it not been for
their anxiety to reach and succor Clayton they would have drawn
out the sweet pleasure of that wonderful journey indefinitely.
On the last day before they reached the coast Tarzan caught
the scent of men ahead of them--the scent of black men.
He told the girl, and cautioned her to maintain silence.
"There are few friends in the jungle," he remarked dryly.
In half an hour they came stealthily upon a small party of
black warriors filing toward the west. As Tarzan saw them
he gave a cry of delight--it was a band of his own Waziri.
Busuli was there, and others who had accompanied him to Opar.
At sight of him they danced and cried out in exuberant joy.
For weeks they had been searching for him, they told him.
The blacks exhibited considerable wonderment at the
presence of the white girl with him, and when they found that
she was to be his woman they vied with one another to do
her honor. With the happy Waziri laughing and dancing
about them they came to the rude shelter by the shore.
There was no sign of life, and no response to their calls.
Tarzan clambered quickly to the interior of the little tree
hut, only to emerge a moment later with an empty tin.
Throwing it down to Busuli, he told him to fetch water, and
then he beckoned Jane Porter to come up.
Together they leaned over the emaciated thing that once
had been an English nobleman. Tears came to the girl's eyes
as she saw the poor, sunken cheeks and hollow eyes, and the
lines of suffering upon the once young and handsome face.
"He still lives," said Tarzan. "We will do all that can be
done for him, but I fear that we are too late."
When Busuli had brought the water Tarzan forced a few
drops between the cracked and swollen lips. He wetted the
hot forehead and bathed the pitiful limbs.
Presently Clayton opened his eyes. A faint, shadowy smile
lighted his countenance as he saw the girl leaning over him.
At sight of Tarzan the expression changed to one of wonderment.
"It's all right, old fellow," said the ape-man. "We've found
you in time. Everything will be all right now, and we'll
have you on your feet again before you know it."
The Englishman shook his head weakly. "It's too late,"
he whispered. "But it's just as well. I'd rather die."
"Where is Monsieur Thuran?" asked the girl.
"He left me after the fever got bad. He is a devil.
When I begged for the water that I was too weak to get he drank
before me, threw the rest out, and laughed in my face."
At the thought of it the man was suddenly animated by a spark
of vitality. He raised himself upon one elbow. "Yes," he
almost shouted; "I will live. I will live long enough to find
and kill that beast!" But the brief effort left him weaker than
before, and he sank back again upon the rotting grasses that,
with his old ulster, had been the bed of Jane Porter.
"Don't worry about Thuran," said Tarzan of the Apes,
laying a reassuring hand on Clayton's forehead. "He belongs
to me, and I shall get him in the end, never fear."
For a long time Clayton lay very still. Several times
Tarzan had to put his ear quite close to the sunken chest
to catch the faint beating of the wornout heart.
Toward evening he aroused again for a brief moment.
"Jane," he whispered. The girl bent her head closer to catch
the faint message. "I have wronged you--and him," he nodded
weakly toward the ape-man. "I loved you so--it is a poor
excuse to offer for injuring you; but I could not bear to
think of giving you up. I do not ask your forgiveness. I only
wish to do now the thing I should have done over a year ago."
He fumbled in the pocket of the ulster beneath him
for something that he had discovered there while he lay
between the paroxysms of fever. Presently he found it--a
crumpled bit of yellow paper. He handed it to the girl,
and as she took it his arm fell limply across his chest, his
head dropped back, and with a little gasp he stiffened and
was still. Then Tarzan of the Apes drew a fold of the ulster
across the upturned face.
For a moment they remained kneeling there, the girl's
lips moving in silent prayer, and as they rose and stood on
either side of the now peaceful form, tears came to the ape-
man's eyes, for through the anguish that his own heart had
suffered he had learned compassion for the suffering of others.
Through her own tears the girl read the message upon
the bit of faded yellow paper, and as she read her eyes went
very wide. Twice she read those startling words before she
could fully comprehend their meaning.
Finger prints prove you Greystoke. Congratulations.
She handed the paper to Tarzan. "And he has known it all
this time," she said, "and did not tell you?"
"I knew it first, Jane," replied the man. "I did not know
that he knew it at all. I must have dropped this message
that night in the waiting room. It was there that I received it."
"And afterward you told us that your mother was a she-ape,
and that you had never known your father?" she asked incredulously.
"The title and the estates meant nothing to me without you,
dear," he replied. "And if I had taken them away
from him I should have been robbing the woman I love--
don't you understand, Jane?" It was as though he attempted
to excuse a fault.
She extended her arms toward him across the body of the
dead man, and took his hands in hers.
"And I would have thrown away a love like that!" she said.
Return of Tarzan Chapter 24
... Return of Tarzan Chapter 26