After Clayton had plunged into the jungle, the sailors —mutineers of th_rrow—fell into a discussion of their next step; but on one point all wer_greed—that they should hasten to put off to the anchored Arrow, where the_ould at least be safe from the spears of their unseen foe. And so, while Jan_orter and Esmeralda were barricading themselves within the cabin, th_owardly crew of cutthroats were pulling rapidly for their ship in the tw_oats that had brought them ashore.
So much had Tarzan seen that day that his head was in a whirl of wonder. Bu_he most wonderful sight of all, to him, was the face of the beautiful whit_irl.
Here at last was one of his own kind; of that he was positive. And the youn_an and the two old men; they, too, were much as he had pictured his ow_eople to be.
But doubtless they were as ferocious and cruel as other men he had seen. Th_act that they alone of all the party were unarmed might account for the fac_hat they had killed no one. They might be very different if provided wit_eapons.
Tarzan had seen the young man pick up the fallen revolver of the wounde_nipes and hide it away in his breast; and he had also seen him slip i_autiously 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 fo_he girl he had a strange longing which he scarcely understood. As for the bi_lack woman, she was evidently connected in some way to the girl, and so h_iked her, also.
For the sailors, and especially Snipes, he had developed a great hatred. H_new by their threatening gestures and by the expression upon their evil face_hat they were enemies of the others of the party, and so he decided to watc_losely.
Tarzan wondered why the men had gone into the jungle, nor did it ever occur t_im that one could become lost in that maze of undergrowth which to him was a_imple 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 an_er companion were safe in his cabin, Tarzan decided to follow the young ma_nto the jungle and learn what his errand might be. He swung off rapidly i_he direction taken by Clayton, and in a short time heard faintly in th_istance the now only occasional calls of the Englishman to his friends.
Presently Tarzan came up with the white man, who, almost fagged, was leanin_gainst a tree wiping the perspiration from his forehead. The ape-man, hidin_afe behind a screen of foliage, sat watching this new specimen of his ow_ace intently.
At intervals Clayton called aloud and finally it came to Tarzan that he wa_earching for the old man.
Tarzan was on the point of going off to look for them himself, when he caugh_he yellow glint of a sleek hide moving cautiously through the jungle towar_layton.
It was Sheeta, the leopard. Now, Tarzan heard the soft bending of grasses an_ondered why the young white man was not warned. Could it be he had failed t_ote 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 cr_f 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 hi_ife had so fearful a sound smote upon his ears. He was no coward; but if eve_an felt the icy fingers of fear upon his heart, William Cecil Clayton, eldes_on of Lord Greystoke of England, did that day in the fastness of the Africa_ungle.
The noise of some great body crashing through the underbrush so close besid_im, and the sound of that bloodcurdling shriek from above, tested Clayton'_ourage to the limit; but he could not know that it was to that very voice h_wed his life, nor that the creature who hurled it forth was his ow_ousin—the real Lord Greystoke.
The afternoon was drawing to a close, and Clayton, disheartened an_iscouraged, was in a terrible quandary as to the proper course to pursue; whether to keep on in search of Professor Porter, at the almost certain ris_f his own death in the jungle by night, or to return to the cabin where h_ight at least serve to protect Jane from the perils which confronted her o_ll sides.
He did not wish to return to camp without her father; still more, he shran_rom the thought of leaving her alone and unprotected in the hands of th_utineers of the Arrow, or to the hundred unknown dangers of the jungle.
Possibly, too, he thought, the professor and Philander might have returned t_amp. Yes, that was more than likely. At least he would return and see, befor_e continued what seemed to be a most fruitless quest. And so he started, stumbling back through the thick and matted underbrush in the direction tha_e thought the cabin lay.
To Tarzan's surprise the young man was heading further into the jungle in th_eneral direction of Mbonga's village, and the shrewd young ape-man wa_onvinced that he was lost.
To Tarzan this was scarcely comprehensible; his judgment told him that no ma_ould venture toward the village of the cruel blacks armed only with a spea_hich, from the awkward way in which he carried it, was evidently a_naccustomed weapon to this white man. Nor was he following the trail of th_ld men. That, they had crossed and left long since, though it had been fres_nd plain before Tarzan's eyes.
Tarzan was perplexed. The fierce jungle would make easy prey of thi_nprotected stranger in a very short time if he were not guided quickly to th_each.
Yes, there was Numa, the lion, even now, stalking the white man a dozen pace_o the right.
Clayton heard the great body paralleling his course, and now there rose upo_he evening air the beast's thunderous roar. The man stopped with upraise_pear and faced the brush from which issued the awful sound. The shadows wer_eepening, darkness was settling in.
God! To die here alone, beneath the fangs of wild beasts; to be torn an_ended; to feel the hot breath of the brute on his face as the great pa_rushed down upon his breast!
For a moment all was still. Clayton stood rigid, with raised spear. Presentl_ faint rustling of the bush apprised him of the stealthy creeping of th_hing behind. It was gathering for the spring. At last he saw it, not twent_eet away—the long, lithe, muscular body and tawny head of a huge black-mane_ion.
The beast was upon its belly, moving forward very slowly. As its eyes me_layton's it stopped, and deliberately, cautiously gathered its hind quarter_ehind 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 h_ared not take his eyes from the yellow green orbs before him. There was _harp twang as of a broken banjo-string, and at the same instant an arro_ppeared in the yellow hide of the crouching lion.
With a roar of pain and anger the beast sprang; but, somehow, Clayton stumble_o one side, and as he turned again to face the infuriated king of beasts, h_as appalled at the sight which confronted him. Almost simultaneously with th_ion's turning to renew the attack a half-naked giant dropped from the tre_bove squarely on the brute's back.
With lightning speed an arm that was banded layers of iron muscle encircle_he huge neck, and the great beast was raised from behind, roaring and pawin_he 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 wa_urned forever into the Englishman's brain.
The man before him was the embodiment of physical perfection and gian_trength; yet it was not upon these he depended in his battle with the grea_at, for mighty as were his muscles, they were as nothing by comparison wit_uma's. To his agility, to his brain and to his long keen knife he owed hi_upremacy.
His right arm encircled the lion's neck, while the left hand plunged the knif_ime and again into the unprotected side behind the left shoulder. Th_nfuriated 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 hav_een different, but it was all accomplished so quickly that the lion ha_carce time to recover from the confusion of its surprise ere it sank lifeles_o 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 whic_ few moments earlier had so startled Clayton.
Before him he saw the figure of a young man, naked except for a loin cloth an_ few barbaric ornaments about arms and legs; on the breast a priceles_iamond locket gleaming against a smooth brown skin.
The hunting knife had been returned to its homely sheath, and the man wa_athering up his bow and quiver from where he had tossed them when he leape_o attack the lion.
Clayton spoke to the stranger in English, thanking him for his brave rescu_nd 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 might_houlders, 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 suc_layton now thought him, once more drew his knife and deftly carved a doze_arge strips of meat from the lion's carcass. Then, squatting upon hi_aunches, he proceeded to eat, first motioning Clayton to join him.
The strong white teeth sank into the raw and dripping flesh in apparent relis_f the meal, but Clayton could not bring himself to share the uncooked mea_ith his strange host; instead he watched him, and presently there dawned upo_im the conviction that this was Tarzan of the Apes, whose notice he had see_osted 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 mingle_ith the growling of some wild beast.
No, this could not be Tarzan of the Apes, for it was very evident that he wa_n utter stranger to English.
When Tarzan had completed his repast he rose and, pointing a very differen_irection from that which Clayton had been pursuing, started off through th_ungle toward the point he had indicated.
Clayton, bewildered and confused, hesitated to follow him, for he thought h_as 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 wa_equired of him. Then he left him to follow voluntarily.
The Englishman, finally concluding that he was a prisoner, saw no alternativ_pen but to accompany his captor, and thus they traveled slowly through th_ungle while the sable mantle of the impenetrable forest night fell abou_hem, and the stealthy footfalls of padded paws mingled with the breaking o_wigs and the wild calls of the savage life that Clayton felt closing in upo_im.
Suddenly Clayton heard the faint report of a firearm—a single shot, and the_ilence.
In the cabin by the beach two thoroughly terrified women clung to each othe_s they crouched upon the low bench in the gathering darkness.
The Negress sobbed hysterically, bemoaning the evil day that had witnessed he_eparture from her dear Maryland, while the white girl, dry eyed and outwardl_alm, was torn by inward fears and forebodings. She feared not more fo_erself than for the three men whom she knew to be wandering in the abysma_epths of the savage jungle, from which she now heard issuing the almos_ncessant shrieks and roars, barkings and growlings of its terrifying an_earsome denizens as they sought their prey.
And now there came the sound of a heavy body brushing against the side of th_abin. She could hear the great padded paws upon the ground outside. For a_nstant, all was silence; even the bedlam of the forest died to a fain_urmur. Then she distinctly heard the beast outside sniffing at the door, no_wo feet from where she crouched. Instinctively the girl shuddered, and shran_loser to the black woman.
"Hush!" she whispered. "Hush, Esmeralda," for the woman's sobs and groan_eemed to have attracted the thing that stalked there just beyond the thi_all.
A gentle scratching sound was heard on the door. The brute tried to force a_ntrance; but presently this ceased, and again she heard the great pad_reeping stealthily around the cabin. Again they stopped—beneath the window o_hich the terrified eyes of the girl now glued themselves.
"God!" she murmured, for now, silhouetted against the moonlit sky beyond, sh_aw framed in the tiny square of the latticed window the head of a hug_ioness. 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 glanc_oward 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 alread_verstrung nerves.
"Oh, Gaberelle!" she shrieked, and slid to the floor an inert and senseles_ass.
For what seemed an eternity the great brute stood with its forepaws upon th_ill, glaring into the little room. Presently it tried the strength of th_attice with its great talons.
The girl had almost ceased to breathe, when, to her relief, the hea_isappeared and she heard the brute's footsteps leaving the window. But no_hey came to the door again, and once more the scratching commenced; this tim_ith increasing force until the great beast was tearing at the massive panel_n 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 porta_hat one day, twenty years later, it would shield a fair American girl, the_nborn, 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 th_indow, beneath which she paused for an instant, and then launched her grea_eight against the timeworn lattice.
The girl heard the wooden rods groan beneath the impact; but they held, an_he huge body dropped back to the ground below.
Again and again the lioness repeated these tactics, until finally th_orrified prisoner within saw a portion of the lattice give way, and in a_nstant 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 lith_ody protruded farther and farther into the room.
As in a trance, the girl rose, her hand upon her breast, wide eyes starin_orror-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 arous_er, their combined efforts might possibly avail to beat back the fierce an_loodthirsty intruder.
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 drippin_angs of the hungry lioness.
With a horrified scream the poor woman rose to her hands and knees, and i_his 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 Esmerald_lected to travel on all fours.
For a moment the lioness remained quiet with intense gaze directed upon th_litting Esmeralda, whose goal appeared to be the cupboard, into which sh_ttempted to propel her huge bulk; but as the shelves were but nine or te_nches apart, she only succeeded in getting her head in; whereupon, with _inal screech, which paled the jungle noises into insignificance, she fainte_nce again.
With the subsidence of Esmeralda the lioness renewed her efforts to wriggl_er 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 Clayto_ad left with her earlier in the day.
Quickly she snatched it from its hiding-place, and, leveling it full at th_ioness's face, pulled the trigger.
There was a flash of flame, the roar of the discharge, and an answering roa_f 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 on_f the great shoulders. It was the surprise at the blinding flash and th_eafening roar that had caused her hasty but temporary retreat.
In another instant she was back at the lattice, and with renewed fury wa_lawing at the aperture, but with lessened effect, since the wounded membe_as almost useless.
She saw her prey—the two women—lying senseless upon the floor. There was n_onger any resistance to be overcome. Her meat lay before her, and Sabor ha_nly to worm her way through the lattice to claim it.
Slowly she forced her great bulk, inch by inch, through the opening. Now he_ead was through, now one great forearm and shoulder.
Carefully she drew up the wounded member to insinuate it gently beyond th_ight pressing bars.
A moment more and both shoulders through, the long, sinuous body and th_arrow hips would glide quickly after.
It was on this sight that Jane Porter again opened her eyes.