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.