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Chapter 10 The Fear-Phantom

  • From a lofty perch Tarzan viewed the village of thatched huts across th_ntervening plantation.
  • He saw that at one point the forest touched the village, and to this spot h_ade his way, lured by a fever of curiosity to behold animals of his own kind,
  • and to learn more of their ways and view the strange lairs in which the_ived.
  • His savage life among the fierce wild brutes of the jungle left no opening fo_ny thought that these could be aught else than enemies. Similarity of for_ed him into no erroneous conception of the welcome that would be accorded hi_hould he be discovered by these, the first of his own kind he had ever seen.
  • Tarzan of the Apes was no sentimentalist. He knew nothing of the brotherhoo_f man. All things outside his own tribe were his deadly enemies, with the fe_xceptions of which Tantor, the elephant, was a marked example.
  • And he realized all this without malice or hatred. To kill was the law of th_ild world he knew. Few were his primitive pleasures, but the greatest o_hese was to hunt and kill, and so he accorded to others the right to cheris_he same desires as he, even though he himself might be the object of thei_unt.
  • His strange life had left him neither morose nor bloodthirsty. That he joye_n killing, and that he killed with a joyous laugh upon his handsome lip_etokened no innate cruelty. He killed for food most often, but, being a man,
  • he sometimes killed for pleasure, a thing which no other animal does; for i_as remained for man alone among all creatures to kill senselessly an_antonly for the mere pleasure of inflicting suffering and death.
  • And when he killed for revenge, or in self-defense, he did that also withou_ysteria, for it was a very businesslike proceeding which admitted of n_evity.
  • So it was that now, as he cautiously approached the village of Mbonga, he wa_uite prepared either to kill or be killed should he be discovered. H_roceeded with unwonted stealth, for Kulonga had taught him great respect fo_he little sharp splinters of wood which dealt death so swiftly an_nerringly.
  • At length he came to a great tree, heavy laden with thick foliage and loade_ith pendant loops of giant creepers. From this almost impenetrable bowe_bove the village he crouched, looking down upon the scene below him,
  • wondering over every feature of this new, strange life.
  • There were naked children running and playing in the village street. Ther_ere women grinding dried plantain in crude stone mortars, while others wer_ashioning cakes from the powdered flour. Out in the fields he could see stil_ther women hoeing, weeding, or gathering.
  • All wore strange protruding girdles of dried grass about their hips and man_ere loaded with brass and copper anklets, armlets and bracelets. Around man_ dusky neck hung curiously coiled strands of wire, while several were furthe_rnamented by huge nose rings.
  • Tarzan of the Apes looked with growing wonder at these strange creatures.
  • Dozing in the shade he saw several men, while at the extreme outskirts of th_learing he occasionally caught glimpses of armed warriors apparently guardin_he village against surprise from an attacking enemy.
  • He noticed that the women alone worked. Nowhere was there evidence of a ma_illing the fields or performing any of the homely duties of the village.
  • Finally his eyes rested upon a woman directly beneath him.
  • Before her was a small cauldron standing over a low fire and in it bubbled _hick, reddish, tarry mass. On one side of her lay a quantity of wooden arrow_he points of which she dipped into the seething substance, then laying the_pon a narrow rack of boughs which stood upon her other side.
  • Tarzan of the Apes was fascinated. Here was the secret of the terribl_estructiveness of The Archer's tiny missiles. He noted the extreme care whic_he woman took that none of the matter should touch her hands, and once when _article spattered upon one of her fingers he saw her plunge the member into _essel of water and quickly rub the tiny stain away with a handful of leaves.
  • Tarzan knew nothing of poison, but his shrewd reasoning told him that it wa_his deadly stuff that killed, and not the little arrow, which was merely th_essenger that carried it into the body of its victim.
  • How he should like to have more of those little death-dealing slivers. If th_oman would only leave her work for an instant he could drop down, gather up _andful, and be back in the tree again before she drew three breaths.
  • As he was trying to think out some plan to distract her attention he heard _ild cry from across the clearing. He looked and saw a black warrior standin_eneath the very tree in which he had killed the murderer of Kala an hou_efore.
  • The fellow was shouting and waving his spear above his head. Now and again h_ould point to something on the ground before him.
  • The village was in an uproar instantly. Armed men rushed from the interior o_any a hut and raced madly across the clearing toward the excited sentry.
  • After them trooped the old men, and the women and children until, in a moment,
  • the village was deserted.
  • Tarzan of the Apes knew that they had found the body of his victim, but tha_nterested him far less than the fact that no one remained in the village t_revent his taking a supply of the arrows which lay below him.
  • Quickly and noiselessly he dropped to the ground beside the cauldron o_oison. For a moment he stood motionless, his quick, bright eyes scanning th_nterior of the palisade.
  • No one was in sight. His eyes rested upon the open doorway of a nearby hut. H_ould take a look within, thought Tarzan, and so, cautiously, he approache_he low thatched building.
  • For a moment he stood without, listening intently. There was no sound, and h_lided into the semi-darkness of the interior.
  • Weapons hung against the walls—long spears, strangely shaped knives, a coupl_f narrow shields. In the center of the room was a cooking pot, and at the fa_nd a litter of dry grasses covered by woven mats which evidently served th_wners as beds and bedding. Several human skulls lay upon the floor.
  • Tarzan of the Apes felt of each article, hefted the spears, smelled of them,
  • for he "saw" largely through his sensitive and highly trained nostrils. H_etermined to own one of these long, pointed sticks, but he could not take on_n this trip because of the arrows he meant to carry.
  • As he took each article from the walls, he placed it in a pile in the cente_f the room. On top of all he placed the cooking pot, inverted, and on top o_his he laid one of the grinning skulls, upon which he fastened the headdres_f the dead Kulonga.
  • Then he stood back, surveyed his work, and grinned. Tarzan of the Apes enjoye_ joke.
  • But now he heard, outside, the sounds of many voices, and long mournful howls,
  • and mighty wailing. He was startled. Had he remained too long? Quickly h_eached the doorway and peered down the village street toward the villag_ate.
  • The natives were not yet in sight, though he could plainly hear the_pproaching across the plantation. They must be very near.
  • Like a flash he sprang across the opening to the pile of arrows. Gathering u_ll he could carry under one arm, he overturned the seething cauldron with _ick, and disappeared into the foliage above just as the first of th_eturning natives entered the gate at the far end of the village street. The_e turned to watch the proceeding below, poised like some wild bird ready t_ake swift wing at the first sign of danger.
  • The natives filed up the street, four of them bearing the dead body o_ulonga. Behind trailed the women, uttering strange cries and weir_amentation. On they came to the portals of Kulonga's hut, the very one i_hich Tarzan had wrought his depredations.
  • Scarcely had half a dozen entered the building ere they came rushing out i_ild, jabbering confusion. The others hastened to gather about. There was muc_xcited gesticulating, pointing, and chattering; then several of the warrior_pproached and peered within.
  • Finally an old fellow with many ornaments of metal about his arms and legs,
  • and a necklace of dried human hands depending upon his chest, entered the hut.
  • It was Mbonga, the king, father of Kulonga.
  • For a few moments all was silent. Then Mbonga emerged, a look of mingled wrat_nd superstitious fear writ upon his hideous countenance. He spoke a few word_o the assembled warriors, and in an instant the men were flying through th_ittle village searching minutely every hut and corner within the palisades.
  • Scarcely had the search commenced than the overturned cauldron was discovered,
  • and with it the theft of the poisoned arrows. Nothing more they found, and i_as a thoroughly awed and frightened group of savages which huddled aroun_heir king a few moments later.
  • Mbonga could explain nothing of the strange events that had taken place. Th_inding of the still warm body of Kulonga—on the very verge of their field_nd within easy earshot of the village—knifed and stripped at the door of hi_ather's home, was in itself sufficiently mysterious, but these last awesom_iscoveries within the village, within the dead Kulonga's own hut, fille_heir hearts with dismay, and conjured in their poor brains only the mos_rightful of superstitious explanations.
  • They stood in little groups, talking in low tones, and ever casting affrighte_lances behind them from their great rolling eyes.
  • Tarzan of the Apes watched them for a while from his lofty perch in the grea_ree. There was much in their demeanor which he could not understand, for o_uperstition he was ignorant, and of fear of any kind he had but a vagu_onception.
  • The sun was high in the heavens. Tarzan had not broken fast this day, and i_as many miles to where lay the toothsome remains of Horta the boar.
  • So he turned his back upon the village of Mbonga and melted away into th_eafy fastness of the forest.