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Chapter 14 At the Mercy of the Jungle

  • 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.