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Chapter 26 The Height of Civilization

  • Another month brought them to a little group of buildings at the mouth of _ide river, and there Tarzan saw many boats, and was filled with the ol_imidity of the wild thing by the sight of many men.
  • Gradually he became accustomed to the strange noises and the odd ways o_ivilization, so that presently none might know that two short months before, this handsome Frenchman in immaculate white ducks, who laughed and chatte_ith the gayest of them, had been swinging naked through primeval forests t_ounce upon some unwary victim, which, raw, was to fill his savage belly.
  • The knife and fork, so contemptuously flung aside a month before, Tarzan no_anipulated as exquisitely as did the polished D'Arnot.
  • So apt a pupil had he been that the young Frenchman had labored assiduously t_ake of Tarzan of the Apes a polished gentleman in so far as nicety of manner_nd speech were concerned.
  • "God made you a gentleman at heart, my friend," D'Arnot had said; "but we wan_is works to show upon the exterior also."
  • As soon as they had reached the little port, D'Arnot had cabled his governmen_f his safety, and requested a three- months' leave, which had been granted.
  • He had also cabled his bankers for funds, and the enforced wait of a month, under which both chafed, was due to their inability to charter a vessel fo_he return to Tarzan's jungle after the treasure.
  • During their stay at the coast town "Monsieur Tarzan" became the wonder o_oth whites and blacks because of several occurrences which to Tarzan seeme_he merest of nothings.
  • Once a huge black, crazed by drink, had run amuck and terrorized the town, until his evil star had led him to where the black-haired French giant lolle_pon the veranda of the hotel.
  • Mounting the broad steps, with brandished knife, the Negro made straight for _arty of four men sitting at a table sipping the inevitable absinthe.
  • Shouting in alarm, the four took to their heels, and then the black spie_arzan.
  • With a roar he charged the ape-man, while half a hundred heads peered fro_heltering windows and doorways to witness the butchering of the poo_renchman by the giant black.
  • Tarzan met the rush with the fighting smile that the joy of battle alway_rought to his lips.
  • As the Negro closed upon him, steel muscles gripped the black wrist of th_plifted knife-hand, and a single swift wrench left the hand dangling below _roken bone.
  • With the pain and surprise, the madness left the black man, and as Tarza_ropped back into his chair the fellow turned, crying with agony, and dashe_ildly toward the native village.
  • On another occasion as Tarzan and D'Arnot sat at dinner with a number of othe_hites, the talk fell upon lions and lion hunting.
  • Opinion was divided as to the bravery of the king of beasts —some maintainin_hat he was an arrant coward, but all agreeing that it was with a feeling o_reater security that they gripped their express rifles when the monarch o_he jungle roared about a camp at night.
  • D'Arnot and Tarzan had agreed that his past be kept secret, and so none othe_han the French officer knew of the ape-man's familiarity with the beasts o_he jungle.
  • "Monsieur Tarzan has not expressed himself," said one of the party. "A man o_is prowess who has spent some time in Africa, as I understand Monsieur Tarza_as, must have had experiences with lions—yes?"
  • "Some," replied Tarzan, dryly. "Enough to know that each of you are right i_our judgment of the characteristics of the lions—you have met. But one migh_s well judge all blacks by the fellow who ran amuck last week, or decide tha_ll whites are cowards because one has met a cowardly white.
  • "There is as much individuality among the lower orders, gentlemen, as there i_mong ourselves. Today we may go out and stumble upon a lion which is over- timid—he runs away from us. To-morrow we may meet his uncle or his twi_rother, and our friends wonder why we do not return from the jungle. Fo_yself, I always assume that a lion is ferocious, and so I am never caught of_y guard."
  • "There would be little pleasure in hunting," retorted the first speaker, "i_ne is afraid of the thing he hunts."
  • D'Arnot smiled. Tarzan afraid!
  • "I do not exactly understand what you mean by fear," said Tarzan. "Like lions, fear is a different thing in different men, but to me the only pleasure in th_unt is the knowledge that the hunted thing has power to harm me as much as _ave to harm him. If I went out with a couple of rifles and a gun bearer, an_wenty or thirty beaters, to hunt a lion, I should not feel that the lion ha_uch chance, and so the pleasure of the hunt would be lessened in proportio_o the increased safety which I felt."
  • "Then I am to take it that Monsieur Tarzan would prefer to go naked into th_ungle, armed only with a jackknife, to kill the king of beasts," laughed th_ther, good naturedly, but with the merest touch of sarcasm in his tone.
  • "And a piece of rope," added Tarzan.
  • Just then the deep roar of a lion sounded from the distant jungle, as thoug_o challenge whoever dared enter the lists with him.
  • "There is your opportunity, Monsieur Tarzan," bantered the Frenchman.
  • "I am not hungry," said Tarzan simply.
  • The men laughed, all but D'Arnot. He alone knew that a savage beast had spoke_ts simple reason through the lips of the ape-man.
  • "But you are afraid, just as any of us would be, to go out there naked, arme_nly with a knife and a piece of rope," said the banterer. "Is it not so?"
  • "No," replied Tarzan. "Only a fool performs any act without reason."
  • "Five thousand francs is a reason," said the other. "I wager you that amoun_ou cannot bring back a lion from the jungle under the conditions we hav_amed—naked and armed only with a knife and a piece of rope."
  • Tarzan glanced toward D'Arnot and nodded his head.
  • "Make it ten thousand," said D'Arnot.
  • "Done," replied the other.
  • Tarzan arose.
  • "I shall have to leave my clothes at the edge of the settlement, so that if _o not return before daylight I shall have something to wear through th_treets."
  • "You are not going now," exclaimed the wagerer—"at night?"
  • "Why not?" asked Tarzan. "Numa walks abroad at night —it will be easier t_ind him."
  • "No," said the other, "I do not want your blood upon my hands. It will b_oolhardy enough if you go forth by day."
  • "I shall go now," replied Tarzan, and went to his room for his knife and rope.
  • The men accompanied him to the edge of the jungle, where he left his clothe_n a small storehouse.
  • But when he would have entered the blackness of the undergrowth they tried t_issuade him; and the wagerer was most insistent of all that he abandon hi_oolhardy venture.
  • "I will accede that you have won," he said, "and the ten thousand francs ar_ours if you will but give up this foolish attempt, which can only end in you_eath."
  • Tarzan laughed, and in another moment the jungle had swallowed him.
  • The men stood silent for some moments and then slowly turned and walked bac_o the hotel veranda.
  • Tarzan had no sooner entered the jungle than he took to the trees, and it wa_ith a feeling of exultant freedom that he swung once more through the fores_ranches.
  • This was life! Ah, how he loved it! Civilization held nothing like this in it_arrow and circumscribed sphere, hemmed in by restrictions an_onventionalities. Even clothes were a hindrance and a nuisance.
  • At last he was free. He had not realized what a prisoner he had been.
  • How easy it would be to circle back to the coast, and then make toward th_outh and his own jungle and cabin.
  • Now he caught the scent of Numa, for he was traveling up wind. Presently hi_uick ears detected the familiar sound of padded feet and the brushing of _uge, fur-clad body through the undergrowth.
  • Tarzan came quietly above the unsuspecting beast and silently stalked hi_ntil he came into a little patch of moonlight.
  • Then the quick noose settled and tightened about the tawny throat, and, as h_ad done it a hundred times in the past, Tarzan made fast the end to a stron_ranch and, while the beast fought and clawed for freedom, dropped to th_round behind him, and leaping upon the great back, plunged his long thi_lade a dozen times into the fierce heart.
  • Then with his foot upon the carcass of Numa, he raised his voice in th_wesome victory cry of his savage tribe.
  • For a moment Tarzan stood irresolute, swayed by conflicting emotions o_oyalty to D'Arnot and a mighty lust for the freedom of his own jungle. A_ast the vision of a beautiful face, and the memory of warm lips crushed t_is dissolved the fascinating picture he had been drawing of his old life.
  • The ape-man threw the warm carcass of Numa across his shoulders and took t_he trees once more.
  • The men upon the veranda had sat for an hour, almost in silence.
  • They had tried ineffectually to converse on various subjects, and always th_hing uppermost in the mind of each had caused the conversation to lapse.
  • "MON DIEU," said the wagerer at length, "I can endure it no longer. I am goin_nto the jungle with my express and bring back that mad man."
  • "I will go with you," said one.
  • "And I"—"And I"—"And I," chorused the others.
  • As though the suggestion had broken the spell of some horrid nightmare the_astened to their various quarters, and presently were headed toward th_ungle—each one heavily armed.
  • "God! What was that?" suddenly cried one of the party, an Englishman, a_arzan's savage cry came faintly to their ears.
  • "I heard the same thing once before," said a Belgian, "when I was in th_orilla country. My carriers said it was the cry of a great bull ape who ha_ade a kill."
  • D'Arnot remembered Clayton's description of the awful roar with which Tarza_ad announced his kills, and he half smiled in spite of the horror whic_illed him to think that the uncanny sound could have issued from a huma_hroat —from the lips of his friend.
  • As the party stood finally near the edge of the jungle, debating as to th_est distribution of their forces, they were startled by a low laugh nea_hem, and turning, beheld advancing toward them a giant figure bearing a dea_ion upon its broad shoulders.
  • Even D'Arnot was thunderstruck, for it seemed impossible that the man coul_ave so quickly dispatched a lion with the pitiful weapons he had taken, o_hat alone he could have borne the huge carcass through the tangled jungle.
  • The men crowded about Tarzan with many questions, but his only answer was _aughing depreciation of his feat.
  • To Tarzan it was as though one should eulogize a butcher for his heroism i_illing a cow, for Tarzan had killed so often for food and for self- preservation that the act seemed anything but remarkable to him. But he wa_ndeed a hero in the eyes of these men—men accustomed to hunting big game.
  • Incidentally, he had won ten thousand francs, for D'Arnot insisted that h_eep it all.
  • This was a very important item to Tarzan, who was just commencing to realiz_he power which lay behind the little pieces of metal and paper which alway_hanged hands when human beings rode, or ate, or slept, or clothed themselves, or drank, or worked, or played, or sheltered themselves from the rain or col_r sun.
  • It had become evident to Tarzan that without money one must die. D'Arnot ha_old him not to worry, since he had more than enough for both, but the ape-ma_as learning many things and one of them was that people looked down upon on_ho accepted money from another without giving something of equal value i_xchange.
  • Shortly after the episode of the lion hunt, D'Arnot succeeded in chartering a_ncient tub for the coastwise trip to Tarzan's land-locked harbor.
  • It was a happy morning for them both when the little vessel weighed anchor an_ade for the open sea.
  • The trip to the beach was uneventful, and the morning after they droppe_nchor before the cabin, Tarzan, garbed once more in his jungle regalia an_arrying a spade, set out alone for the amphitheater of the apes where lay th_reasure.
  • Late the next day he returned, bearing the great chest upon his shoulder, an_t sunrise the little vessel worked through the harbor's mouth and took up he_orthward journey.
  • Three weeks later Tarzan and D'Arnot were passengers on board a French steame_ound for Lyons, and after a few days in that city D'Arnot took Tarzan t_aris.
  • The ape-man was anxious to proceed to America, but D'Arnot insisted that h_ust accompany him to Paris first, nor would he divulge the nature of th_rgent necessity upon which he based his demand.
  • One of the first things which D'Arnot accomplished after their arrival was t_rrange to visit a high official of the police department, an old friend; an_o take Tarzan with him.
  • Adroitly D'Arnot led the conversation from point to point until the policema_ad explained to the interested Tarzan many of the methods in vogue fo_pprehending and identifying criminals.
  • Not the least interesting to Tarzan was the part played by finger prints i_his fascinating science.
  • "But of what value are these imprints," asked Tarzan, "when, after a few year_he lines upon the fingers are entirely changed by the wearing out of the ol_issue and the growth of new?"
  • "The lines never change," replied the official. "From infancy to senility th_ingerprints of an individual change only in size, except as injuries alte_he loops and whorls. But if imprints have been taken of the thumb and fou_ingers of both hands one must needs lose all entirely to escap_dentification."
  • "It is marvelous," exclaimed D'Arnot. "I wonder what the lines upon my ow_ingers may resemble."
  • "We can soon see," replied the police officer, and ringing a bell he summone_n assistant to whom he issued a few directions.
  • The man left the room, but presently returned with a little hardwood box whic_e placed on his superior's desk.
  • "Now," said the officer, "you shall have your fingerprints in a second."
  • He drew from the little case a square of plate glass, a little tube of thic_nk, a rubber roller, and a few snowy white cards.
  • Squeezing a drop of ink onto the glass, he spread it back and forth with th_ubber roller until the entire surface of the glass was covered to hi_atisfaction with a very thin and uniform layer of ink.
  • "Place the four fingers of your right hand upon the glass, thus," he said t_'Arnot. "Now the thumb. That is right. Now place them in just the sam_osition upon this card, here, no—a little to the right. We must leave roo_or the thumb and the fingers of the left hand. There, that's it. Now the sam_ith the left."
  • "Come, Tarzan," cried D'Arnot, "let's see what your whorls look like."
  • Tarzan complied readily, asking many questions of the officer during th_peration.
  • "Do fingerprints show racial characteristics?" he asked. "Could you determine, for example, solely from fingerprints whether the subject was Negro o_aucasian?"
  • "I think not," replied the officer.
  • "Could the finger prints of an ape be detected from those of a man?"
  • "Probably, because the ape's would be far simpler than those of the highe_rganism."
  • "But a cross between an ape and a man might show the characteristics of eithe_rogenitor?" continued Tarzan.
  • "Yes, I should think likely," responded the official; "but the science has no_rogressed sufficiently to render it exact enough in such matters. I shoul_ate to trust its findings further than to differentiate between individuals.
  • There it is absolute. No two people born into the world probably have ever ha_dentical lines upon all their digits. It is very doubtful if any singl_ingerprint will ever be exactly duplicated by any finger other than the on_hich originally made it."
  • "Does the comparison require much time or labor?" asked D'Arnot.
  • "Ordinarily but a few moments, if the impressions are distinct."
  • D'Arnot drew a little black book from his pocket and commenced turning th_ages.
  • Tarzan looked at the book in surprise. How did D'Arnot come to have his book?
  • Presently D'Arnot stopped at a page on which were five tiny little smudges.
  • He handed the open book to the policeman.
  • "Are these imprints similar to mine or Monsieur Tarzan's or can you say tha_hey are identical with either?" The officer drew a powerful glass from hi_esk and examined all three specimens carefully, making notations meanwhil_pon a pad of paper.
  • Tarzan realized now what was the meaning of their visit to the police officer.
  • The answer to his life's riddle lay in these tiny marks.
  • With tense nerves he sat leaning forward in his chair, but suddenly he relaxe_nd dropped back, smiling.
  • D'Arnot looked at him in surprise.
  • "You forget that for twenty years the dead body of the child who made thos_ingerprints lay in the cabin of his father, and that all my life I have see_t lying there," said Tarzan bitterly.
  • The policeman looked up in astonishment.
  • "Go ahead, captain, with your examination," said D'Arnot, "we will tell yo_he story later—provided Monsieur Tarzan is agreeable."
  • Tarzan nodded his head.
  • "But you are mad, my dear D'Arnot," he insisted. "Those little fingers ar_uried on the west coast of Africa."
  • "I do not know as to that, Tarzan," replied D'Arnot. "It is possible, but i_ou are not the son of John Clayton then how in heaven's name did you com_nto that God forsaken jungle where no white man other than John Clayton ha_ver set foot?"
  • "You forget—Kala," said Tarzan.
  • "I do not even consider her," replied D'Arnot.
  • The friends had walked to the broad window overlooking the boulevard as the_alked. For some time they stood there gazing out upon the busy thron_eneath, each wrapped in his own thoughts.
  • "It takes some time to compare finger prints," thought D'Arnot, turning t_ook at the police officer.
  • To his astonishment he saw the official leaning back in his chair hastil_canning the contents of the little black diary.
  • D'Arnot coughed. The policeman looked up, and, catching his eye, raised hi_inger to admonish silence. D'Arnot turned back to the window, and presentl_he police officer spoke.
  • "Gentlemen," he said.
  • Both turned toward him.
  • "There is evidently a great deal at stake which must hinge to a greater o_esser extent upon the absolute correctness of this comparison. I therefor_sk that you leave the entire matter in my hands until Monsieur Desquerc, ou_xpert, returns. It will be but a matter of a few days."
  • "I had hoped to know at once," said D'Arnot. "Monsieur Tarzan sails fo_merica tomorrow."
  • "I will promise that you can cable him a report within two weeks," replied th_fficer; "but what it will be I dare not say. There are resemblances, yet—well, we had better leave it for Monsieur Desquerc to solve."