At the Mercy of the Jungle
After Clayton had plunged into the jungle, the sailors
--mutineers of the arrow--fell into a discussion of their
next step; but on one point all were agreed--that they should
hasten to put off to the anchored arrow, where they could at
least be safe from the spears of their unseen foe. And so,
while Jane Porter and Esmeralda were barricading themselves
within the cabin, the cowardly crew of cutthroats were pulling
rapidly for their ship in the two boats that had brought them ashore.
So much had Tarzan seen that day that his head was in a
whirl of wonder. But the most wonderful sight of all, to him,
was the face of the beautiful white girl.
Here at last was one of his own kind; of that he was positive.
And the young man and the two old men; they, too,
were much as he had pictured his own people to be.
But doubtless they were as ferocious and cruel as other
men he had seen. The fact that they alone of all the party
were unarmed might account for the fact that they had killed
no one. They might be very different if provided with weapons.
Tarzan had seen the young man pick up the fallen revolver
of the wounded Snipes and hide it away in his breast; and he
had also seen him slip it cautiously to the girl as she entered
the cabin door.
He did not understand anything of the motives behind all
that he had seen; but, somehow, intuitively he liked the
young man and the two old men, and for the girl he had a
strange longing which he scarcely understood. As for the big
black woman, she was evidently connected in some way to
the girl, and so he liked her, also.
For the sailors, and especially Snipes, he had developed a
great hatred. He knew by their threatening gestures and by
the expression upon their evil faces that they were enemies
of the others of the party, and so he decided to watch closely.
Tarzan wondered why the men had gone into the jungle,
nor did it ever occur to him that one could become lost in
that maze of undergrowth which to him was as simple as is the
main street of your own home town to you.
When he saw the sailors row away toward the ship, and
knew that the girl and her companion were safe in his cabin,
Tarzan decided to follow the young man into the jungle and
learn what his errand might be. He swung off rapidly in the
direction taken by Clayton, and in a short time heard faintly
in the distance the now only occasional calls of the Englishman
to his friends.
Presently Tarzan came up with the white man, who, almost
fagged, was leaning against a tree wiping the perspiration
from his forehead. The ape-man, hiding safe behind a
screen of foliage, sat watching this new specimen of his own
At intervals Clayton called aloud and finally it came to
Tarzan that he was searching for the old man.
Tarzan was on the point of going off to look for them himself,
when he caught the yellow glint of a sleek hide moving
cautiously through the jungle toward Clayton.
It was Sheeta, the leopard. Now, Tarzan heard the soft
bending of grasses and wondered why the young white man
was not warned. Could it be he had failed to note the loud
warning? Never before had Tarzan known Sheeta to be so clumsy.
No, the white man did not hear. Sheeta was crouching for
the spring, and then, shrill and horrible, there rose from the
stillness of the jungle the awful cry of the challenging ape,
and Sheeta turned, crashing into the underbrush.
Clayton came to his feet with a start. His blood ran cold.
Never in all his life had so fearful a sound smote upon his
ears. He was no coward; but if ever man felt the icy fingers
of fear upon his heart, William Cecil Clayton, eldest son of
Lord Greystoke of England, did that day in the fastness of
the African jungle.
The noise of some great body crashing through the underbrush
so close beside him, and the sound of that bloodcurdling
shriek from above, tested Clayton's courage to the limit;
but he could not know that it was to that very voice he owed
his life, nor that the creature who hurled it forth was his own
cousin--the real Lord Greystoke.
The afternoon was drawing to a close, and Clayton,
disheartened and discouraged, was in a terrible quandary as to
the proper course to pursue; whether to keep on in search of
Professor, at the almost certain risk of his own death
in the jungle by night, or to return to the cabin where he
might at least serve to protect Jane from the perils which
confronted her on all sides.
He did not wish to return to camp without her father; still
more, he shrank from the thought of leaving her alone and
unprotected in the hands of the mutineers of the arrow,
or to the hundred unknown dangers of the jungle.
Possibly, too, he thought, the professor and Philander
might have returned to camp. Yes, that was more than likely.
At least he would return and see, before he continued what
seemed to be a most fruitless quest. And so he started,
stumbling back through the thick and matted underbrush in the
direction that he thought the cabin lay.
To Tarzan's surprise the young man was heading further
into the jungle in the general direction of Mbonga's village,
and the shrewd young ape-man was convinced that he was lost.
To Tarzan this was scarcely incomprehensible; his judgment
told him that no man would venture toward the village of the
cruel blacks armed only with a spear which, from the awkward
way in which he carried it, was evidently an unaccustomed
weapon to this white man. Nor was he following the
trail of the old men. That, they had crossed and left long
since, though it had been fresh and plain before Tarzan's eyes.
Tarzan was perplexed. The fierce jungle would make easy
prey of this unprotected stranger in a very short time if he
were not guided quickly to the beach.
Yes, there was Numa, the lion, even now, stalking the
white man a dozen paces to the right.
Clayton heard the great body paralleling his course, and
now there rose upon the evening air the beast's thunderous
roar. The man stopped with upraised spear and faced the
brush from which issued the awful sound. The shadows were
deepening, darkness was settling in.
God! To die here alone, beneath the fangs of wild beasts;
to be torn and rended; to feel the hot breath of the brute on
his face as the great paw crushed down up his breast!
For a moment all was still. Clayton stood rigid, with raised
spear. Presently a faint rustling of the bush apprised him of
the stealthy creeping of the thing behind. It was gathering for
the spring. At last he saw it, not twenty feet away--the long,
lithe, muscular body and tawny head of a huge black-maned lion.
The beast was upon its belly, moving forward very slowly.
As its eyes met Clayton's it stopped, and deliberately,
cautiously gathered its hind quarters behind it.
In agony the man watched, fearful to launch his spear,
powerless to fly.
He heard a noise in the tree above him. Some new danger,
he thought, but he dared not take his eyes from the yellow
green orbs before him. There was a sharp twang as of a broken
banjo-string, and at the same instant an arrow appeared
in the yellow hide of the crouching lion.
With a roar of pain and anger the beast sprang; but, somehow,
Clayton stumbled to one side, and as he turned again to
face the infuriated King of beasts, he was appalled at the sight
which confronted him. Almost simultaneously with the lion's
turning to renew the attack a half-naked giant dropped from
the tree above squarely on the brute's back.
With lightning speed an arm that was banded layers of iron
muscle encircled the huge neck, and the great beast was
raised from behind, roaring and pawing the air--raised as
easily as Clayton would have lifted a pet dog.
The scene he witnessed there in the twilight depths of the
African jungle was burned forever into the Englishman's brain.
The man before him was the embodiment of physical perfection
and giant strength; yet it was not upon these he depended
in his battle with the great cat, for mighty as were his
muscles, they were as nothing by comparison with Numa's.
To his agility, to his brain and to his long keen knife he
owed his supremacy.
His right arm encircled the lion's neck, while the left hand
plunged the knife time and again into the unprotected side
behind the left shoulder. The infuriated beast, pulled up and
backwards until he stood upon his hind legs, struggled
impotently in this unnatural position.
Had the battle been of a few seconds' longer duration the
outcome might have been different, but it was all accomplished
so quickly that the lion had scarce time to recover from the
confusion of its surprise ere it sank lifeless to the ground.
Then the strange figure which had vanquished it stood
erect upon the carcass, and throwing back the wild and
handsome head, gave out the fearsome cry which a few moments
earlier had so startled Clayton.
Before him he saw the figure of a young man, naked except
for a loin cloth and a few barbaric ornaments about
arms and legs; on the breast a priceless diamond locket
gleaming against a smooth brown skin.
The hunting knife had been returned to its homely sheath,
and the man was gathering up his bow and quiver from
where he had tossed them when he leaped to attack the lion.
Clayton spoke to the stranger in English, thanking him for
his brave rescue and complimenting him on the wondrous
strength and dexterity he had displayed, but the only answer
was a steady stare and a faint shrug of the mighty shoulders,
which might betoken either disparagement of the service
rendered, or ignorance of Clayton's language.
When the bow and quiver had been slung to his back the
wild man, for such Clayton now thought him, once more
drew his knife and deftly carved a dozen large strips of meat
from the lion's carcass. Then, squatting upon his haunches,
he proceeded to eat, first motioning Clayton to join him.
The strong white teeth sank into the raw and dripping flesh
in apparent relish of the meal, but Clayton could not bring
himself to share the uncooked meat with his strange host;
instead he watched him, and presently there dawned upon him
the conviction that this was Tarzan of the Apes, whose notice
he had seen posted upon the cabin door that morning.
If so he must speak English.
Again Clayton attempted speech with the ape-man; but the
replies, now vocal, were in a strange tongue, which resembled
the chattering of monkeys mingled with the growling of some
No, this could not be Tarzan of the Apes, for it was very
evident that he was an utter stranger to English.
When Tarzan had completed his repast he rose and, pointing
a very different direction from that which Clayton had
been pursuing, started off through the jungle toward the point
he had indicated.
Clayton, bewildered and confused, hesitated to follow him,
for he thought he was but being led more deeply into the
mazes of the forest; but the ape-man, seeing him disinclined
to follow, returned, and, grasping him by the coat, dragged
him along until he was convinced that Clayton understood what
was required of him. Then he left him to follow voluntarily.
The Englishman, finally concluding that he was a prisoner,
saw no alternative open but to accompany his captor, and
thus they traveled slowly through the jungle while the sable
mantle of the impenetrable forest night fell about them, and
the stealthy footfalls of padded paws mingled with the breaking
of twigs and the wild calls of the savage life that Clayton
felt closing in upon him.
Suddenly Clayton heard the faint report of a firearm--a
single shot, and then silence.
In the cabin by the beach two thoroughly terrified women
clung to each other as they crouched upon the low bench in
the gathering darkness.
The Negress sobbed hysterically, bemoaning the evil day
that had witnessed her departure from her dear Maryland,
while the white girl, dry eyed and outwardly calm, was torn
by inward fears and forebodings. She feared not more for
herself than for the three men whom she knew to be wandering
in the abysmal depths of the savage jungle, from which
she now heard issuing the almost incessant shrieks and roars,
barkings and growlings of its terrifying and fearsome denizens
as they sought their prey.
And now there came the sound of a heavy body brushing
against the side of the cabin. She could hear the great padded
paws upon the ground outside. For an instant, all was silence;
even the bedlam of the forest died to a faint murmur. Then
she distinctly heard the beast outside sniffing at the door, not
two feet from where she crouched. Instinctively the girl
shuddered, and shrank closer to the black woman.
"Hush!" she whispered. "Hush, Esmeralda," for the
woman's sobs and groans seemed to have attracted the thing
that stalked there just beyond the thin wall.
A gentle scratching sound was heard on the door. The
brute tried to force an entrance; but presently this ceased,
and again she heard the great pads creeping stealthily around
the cabin. Again they stopped--beneath the window on
which the terrified eyes of the girl now glued themselves.
"God!" she murmured, for now, silhouetted against the
moonlit sky beyond, she saw framed in the tiny square of the
latticed window the head of a huge lioness. The gleaming
eyes were fixed upon her in intent ferocity.
"Look, Esmeralda!" she whispered. "For God's sake, what
shall we do? Look! Quick! The window!"
Esmeralda, cowering still closer to her mistress, took one
frightened glance toward the little square of moonlight, just
as the lioness emitted a low, savage snarl.
The sight that met the poor woman's eyes was too much
for the already overstrung nerves.
"Oh, Gaberelle!" she shrieked, and slid to the floor an inert
and senseless mass.
For what seemed an eternity the great brute stood with its
forepaws upon the sill, glaring into the little room. Presently
it tried the strength of the lattice with its great talons.
The girl had almost ceased to breathe, when, to her relief,
the head disappeared and she heard the brute's footsteps leaving
the window. But now they came to the door again, and
once more the scratching commenced; this time with increasing
force until the great beast was tearing at the massive panels
in a perfect frenzy of eagerness to seize its defenseless victims.
Could Jane have known the immense strength of that door,
built piece by piece, she would have felt less fear of the
lioness reaching her by this avenue.
Little did John Clayton imagine when he fashioned that
crude but mighty portal that one day, twenty years later, it
would shield a fair American girl, then unborn, from the
teeth and talons of a man-eater.
For fully twenty minutes the brute alternately sniffed and
tore at the door, occasionally giving voice to a wild, savage
cry of baffled rage. At length, however, she gave up the
attempt, and Jane heard her returning toward the window,
beneath which she paused for an instant, and then launched
her great weight against the timeworn lattice.
The girl heard the wooden rods groan beneath the impact; but
they held, and the huge body dropped back to the ground below.
Again and again the lioness repeated these tactics, until
finally the horrified prisoner within saw a portion of the
lattice give way, and in an instant one great paw and the head
of the animal were thrust within the room.
Slowly the powerful neck and shoulders spread the bars
apart, and the lithe body protruded farther and farther into
As in a trance, the girl rose, her hand upon her breast,
wide eyes staring horror-stricken into the snarling face of the
beast scarce ten feet from her. At her feet lay the prostrate
form of the Negress. If she could but arouse her, their combined
efforts might possibly avail to beat back the fierce and
Jane stooped to grasp the black woman by the shoulder.
Roughly she shook her.
"Esmeralda! Esmeralda!" she cried. "Help me, or we are lost."
Esmeralda opened her eyes. The first object they
encountered was the dripping fangs of the hungry lioness.
With a horrified scream the poor woman rose to her hands and
knees, and in this position scurried across the room, shrieking:
"O Gaberelle! O Gaberelle!" at the top of her lungs.
Esmeralda weighed some two hundred and eighty pounds,
and her extreme haste, added to her extreme corpulency,
produced a most amazing result when Esmeralda elected to
travel on all fours.
For a moment the lioness remained quiet with intense gaze
directed upon the flitting Esmeralda, whose goal appeared to
be the cupboard, into which she attempted to propel her huge
bulk; but as the shelves were but nine or ten inches apart, she
only succeeded in getting her head in; whereupon, with a final
screech, which paled the jungle noises into insignificance, she
fainted once again.
With the subsidence of Esmeralda the lioness renewed her
efforts to wriggle her huge bulk through the weakening lattice.
The girl, standing pale and rigid against the farther wall,
sought with ever-increasing terror for some loophole of escape.
Suddenly her hand, tight-pressed against her bosom, felt
the hard outline of the revolver that Clayton had left with
her earlier in the day.
Quickly she snatched it from its hiding-place, and, leveling
it full at the lioness's face, pulled the trigger.
There was a flash of flame, the roar of the discharge, and
an answering roar of pain and anger from the beast.
Jane Porter saw the great form disappear from the window,
and then she, too, fainted, the revolver falling at her side.
But Sabor was not killed. The bullet had but inflicted a
painful wound in one of the great shoulders. It was the
surprise at the blinding flash and the deafening roar that had
caused her hasty but temporary retreat.
In another instant she was back at the lattice, and with
renewed fury was clawing at the aperture, but with lessened
effect, since the wounded member was almost useless.
She saw her prey--the two women--lying senseless upon
the floor. There was no longer any resistance to be overcome.
Her meat lay before her, and Sabor had only to worm her
way through the lattice to claim it.
Slowly she forced her great bulk, inch by inch, through the
opening. Now her head was through, now one great forearm
Carefully she drew up the wounded member to insinuate it
gently beyond the tight pressing bars.
A moment more and both shoulders through, the long,
sinuous body and the narrow hips would glide quickly after.
It was on this sight that Jane Porter again opened her eyes.
Tarzan of the Apes Chapter 13
... Tarzan of the Apes Chapter 15