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Chapter 21 The Village of Torture

  • As the little expedition of sailors toiled through the dense jungle searchin_or signs of Jane Porter, the futility of their venture became more and mor_pparent, but the grief of the old man and the hopeless eyes of the youn_nglishman prevented the kind hearted D'Arnot from turning back.
  • He thought that there might be a bare possibility of finding her body, or th_emains of it, for he was positive that she had been devoured by some beast o_rey. He deployed his men into a skirmish line from the point where Esmerald_ad been found, and in this extended formation they pushed their way, sweatin_nd panting, through the tangled vines and creepers. It was slow work. Noo_ound them but a few miles inland. They halted for a brief rest then, an_fter pushing on for a short distance further one of the men discovered _ell-marked trail.
  • It was an old elephant track, and D'Arnot after consulting with Professo_orter and Clayton decided to follow it.
  • The path wound through the jungle in a northeasterly direction, and along i_he column moved in single file.
  • Lieutenant D'Arnot was in the lead and moving at a quick pace, for the trai_as comparatively open. Immediately behind him came Professor Porter, but a_e could not keep pace with the younger man D'Arnot was a hundred yards i_dvance when suddenly a half dozen black warriors arose about him.
  • D'Arnot gave a warning shout to his column as the blacks closed on him, bu_efore he could draw his revolver he had been pinioned and dragged into th_ungle.
  • His cry had alarmed the sailors and a dozen of them sprang forward pas_rofessor Porter, running up the trail to their officer's aid.
  • They did not know the cause of his outcry, only that it was a warning o_anger ahead. They had rushed past the spot where D'Arnot had been seized whe_ spear hurled from the jungle transfixed one of the men, and then a volley o_rrows fell among them.
  • Raising their rifles they fired into the underbrush in the direction fro_hich the missiles had come.
  • By this time the balance of the party had come up, and volley after volley wa_ired toward the concealed foe. It was these shots that Tarzan and Jane Porte_ad heard.
  • Lieutenant Charpentier, who had been bringing up the rear of the column, no_ame running to the scene, and on hearing the details of the ambush ordere_he men to follow him, and plunged into the tangled vegetation.
  • In an instant they were in a hand-to-hand fight with some fifty black warrior_f Mbonga's village. Arrows and bullets flew thick and fast.
  • Queer African knives and French gun butts mingled for a moment in savage an_loody duels, but soon the natives fled into the jungle, leaving the Frenchme_o count their losses.
  • Four of the twenty were dead, a dozen others were wounded, and Lieutenan_'Arnot was missing. Night was falling rapidly, and their predicament wa_endered doubly worse when they could not even find the elephant trail whic_hey had been following.
  • There was but one thing to do, make camp where they were until daylight.
  • Lieutenant Charpentier ordered a clearing made and a circular abatis o_nderbrush constructed about the camp.
  • This work was not completed until long after dark, the men building a hug_ire in the center of the clearing to give them light to work by.
  • When all was safe as possible against attack of wild beasts and savage men, Lieutenant Charpentier placed sentries about the little camp and the tired an_ungry men threw themselves upon the ground to sleep.
  • The groans of the wounded, mingled with the roaring and growling of the grea_easts which the noise and firelight had attracted, kept sleep, except in it_ost fitful form, from the tired eyes. It was a sad and hungry party that la_hrough the long night praying for dawn.
  • The blacks who had seized D'Arnot had not waited to participate in the figh_hich followed, but instead had dragged their prisoner a little way throug_he jungle and then struck the trail further on beyond the scene of th_ighting in which their fellows were engaged.
  • They hurried him along, the sounds of battle growing fainter and fainter a_hey drew away from the contestants until there suddenly broke upon D'Arnot'_ision a good-sized clearing at one end of which stood a thatched an_alisaded village.
  • It was now dusk, but the watchers at the gate saw the approaching trio an_istinguished one as a prisoner ere they reached the portals.
  • A cry went up within the palisade. A great throng of women and children rushe_ut to meet the party.
  • And then began for the French officer the most terrifying experience which ma_an encounter upon earth—the reception of a white prisoner into a village o_frican cannibals.
  • To add to the fiendishness of their cruel savagery was the poignant memory o_till crueler barbarities practiced upon them and theirs by the white officer_f that arch hypocrite, Leopold II of Belgium, because of whose atrocitie_hey had fled the Congo Free State—a pitiful remnant of what once had been _ighty tribe.
  • They fell upon D'Arnot tooth and nail, beating him with sticks and stones an_earing at him with claw-like hands. Every vestige of clothing was torn fro_im, and the merciless blows fell upon his bare and quivering flesh. But no_nce did the Frenchman cry out in pain. He breathed a silent prayer that he b_uickly delivered from his torture.
  • But the death he prayed for was not to be so easily had. Soon the warrior_eat the women away from their prisoner. He was to be saved for nobler spor_han this, and the first wave of their passion having subsided they contente_hemselves with crying out taunts and insults and spitting upon him.
  • Presently they reached the center of the village. There D'Arnot was boun_ecurely to the great post from which no live man had ever been released.
  • A number of the women scattered to their several huts to fetch pots and water, while others built a row of fires on which portions of the feast were to b_oiled while the balance would be slowly dried in strips for future use, a_hey expected the other warriors to return with many prisoners. Th_estivities were delayed awaiting the return of the warriors who had remaine_o engage in the skirmish with the white men, so that it was quite late whe_ll were in the village, and the dance of death commenced to circle around th_oomed officer.
  • Half fainting from pain and exhaustion, D'Arnot watched from beneath half- closed lids what seemed but the vagary of delirium, or some horrid nightmar_rom which he must soon awake.
  • The bestial faces, daubed with color—the huge mouths and flabby hangin_ips—the yellow teeth, sharp filed—the rolling, demon eyes—the shining nake_odies—the cruel spears. Surely no such creatures really existed upon earth—h_ust indeed be dreaming.
  • The savage, whirling bodies circled nearer. Now a spear sprang forth an_ouched his arm. The sharp pain and the feel of hot, trickling blood assure_im of the awful reality of his hopeless position.
  • Another spear and then another touched him. He closed his eyes and held hi_eeth firm set—he would not cry out.
  • He was a soldier of France, and he would teach these beasts how an officer an_ gentleman died.
  • Tarzan of the Apes needed no interpreter to translate the story of thos_istant shots. With Jane Porter's kisses still warm upon his lips he wa_winging with incredible rapidity through the forest trees straight toward th_illage of Mbonga.
  • He was not interested in the location of the encounter, for he judged tha_hat would soon be over. Those who were killed he could not aid, those wh_scaped would not need his assistance.
  • It was to those who had neither been killed or escaped that he hastened. An_e knew that he would find them by the great post in the center of Mbong_illage.
  • Many times had Tarzan seen Mbonga's black raiding parties return from th_orthward with prisoners, and always were the same scenes enacted about tha_rim stake, beneath the flaring light of many fires.
  • He knew, too, that they seldom lost much time before consummating the fiendis_urpose of their captures. He doubted that he would arrive in time to do mor_han avenge.
  • On he sped. Night had fallen and he traveled high along the upper terrac_here the gorgeous tropic moon lighted the dizzy pathway through the gentl_ndulating branches of the tree tops.
  • Presently he caught the reflection of a distant blaze. It lay to the right o_is path. It must be the light from the camp fire the two men had built befor_hey were attacked—Tarzan knew nothing of the presence of the sailors.
  • So sure was Tarzan of his jungle knowledge that he did not turn from hi_ourse, but passed the glare at a distance of a half mile. It was the cam_ire of the Frenchmen.
  • In a few minutes more Tarzan swung into the trees above Mbonga's village. Ah, he was not quite too late! Or, was he? He could not tell. The figure at th_take was very still, yet the black warriors were but pricking it.
  • Tarzan knew their customs. The death blow had not been struck. He could tel_lmost to a minute how far the dance had gone.
  • In another instant Mbonga's knife would sever one of the victim's ears—tha_ould mark the beginning of the end, for very shortly after only a writhin_ass of mutilated flesh would remain.
  • There would still be life in it, but death then would be the only charity i_raved.
  • The stake stood forty feet from the nearest tree. Tarzan coiled his rope. The_here rose suddenly above the fiendish cries of the dancing demons the awfu_hallenge of the ape-man.
  • The dancers halted as though turned to stone.
  • The rope sped with singing whir high above the heads of the blacks. It wa_uite invisible in the flaring lights of the camp fires.
  • D'Arnot opened his eyes. A huge black, standing directly before him, lunge_ackward as though felled by an invisible hand.
  • Struggling and shrieking, his body, rolling from side to side, moved quickl_oward the shadows beneath the trees.
  • The blacks, their eyes protruding in horror, watched spellbound.
  • Once beneath the trees, the body rose straight into the air, and as i_isappeared into the foliage above, the terrified negroes, screaming wit_right, broke into a mad race for the village gate.
  • D'Arnot was left alone.
  • He was a brave man, but he had felt the short hairs bristle upon the nape o_is neck when that uncanny cry rose upon the air.
  • As the writhing body of the black soared, as though by unearthly power, int_he dense foliage of the forest, D'Arnot felt an icy shiver run along hi_pine, as though death had risen from a dark grave and laid a cold and clamm_inger on his flesh.
  • As D'Arnot watched the spot where the body had entered the tree he heard th_ounds of movement there.
  • The branches swayed as though under the weight of a man's body—there was _rash and the black came sprawling to earth again,—to lie very quietly wher_e had fallen.
  • Immediately after him came a white body, but this one alighted erect.
  • D'Arnot saw a clean-limbed young giant emerge from the shadows into th_irelight and come quickly toward him.
  • What could it mean? Who could it be? Some new creature of torture an_estruction, doubtless.
  • D'Arnot waited. His eyes never left the face of the advancing man. Nor did th_ther's frank, clear eyes waver beneath D'Arnot's fixed gaze.
  • D'Arnot was reassured, but still without much hope, though he felt that tha_ace could not mask a cruel heart.
  • Without a word Tarzan of the Apes cut the bonds which held the Frenchman. Wea_rom suffering and loss of blood, he would have fallen but for the strong ar_hat caught him.
  • He felt himself lifted from the ground. There was a sensation as of flying, and then he lost consciousness.