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Chapter 8 The Tree-top Hunter

  • The morning after the Dum-Dum the tribe started slowly back through the fores_oward the coast.
  • The body of Tublat lay where it had fallen, for the people of Kerchak do no_at their own dead.
  • The march was but a leisurely search for food. Cabbage palm and gray plum, pisang and scitamine they found in abundance, with wild pineapple, an_ccasionally small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, and insects. The nuts the_racked between their powerful jaws, or, if too hard, broke by poundin_etween stones.
  • Once old Sabor, crossing their path, sent them scurrying to the safety of th_igher branches, for if she respected their number and their sharp fangs, the_n their part held her cruel and mighty ferocity in equal esteem.
  • Upon a low-hanging branch sat Tarzan directly above the majestic, supple bod_s it forged silently through the thick jungle. He hurled a pineapple at th_ncient enemy of his people. The great beast stopped and, turning, eyed th_aunting figure above her.
  • With an angry lash of her tail she bared her yellow fangs, curling her grea_ips in a hideous snarl that wrinkled her bristling snout in serried ridge_nd closed her wicked eyes to two narrow slits of rage and hatred.
  • With back-laid ears she looked straight into the eyes of Tarzan of the Ape_nd sounded her fierce, shrill challenge. And from the safety of hi_verhanging limb the ape-child sent back the fearsome answer of his kind.
  • For a moment the two eyed each other in silence, and then the great cat turne_nto the jungle, which swallowed her as the ocean engulfs a tossed pebble.
  • But into the mind of Tarzan a great plan sprang. He had killed the fierc_ublat, so was he not therefore a mighty fighter? Now would he track down th_rafty Sabor and slay her likewise. He would be a mighty hunter, also.
  • At the bottom of his little English heart beat the great desire to cover hi_akedness with CLOTHES for he had learned from his picture books that all ME_ere so covered, while MONKEYS and APES and every other living thing wen_aked.
  • CLOTHES therefore, must be truly a badge of greatness; the insignia of th_uperiority of MAN over all other animals, for surely there could be no othe_eason for wearing the hideous things.
  • Many moons ago, when he had been much smaller, he had desired the skin o_abor, the lioness, or Numa, the lion, or Sheeta, the leopard to cover hi_airless body that he might no longer resemble hideous Histah, the snake; bu_ow he was proud of his sleek skin for it betokened his descent from a might_ace, and the conflicting desires to go naked in prideful proof of hi_ncestry, or to conform to the customs of his own kind and wear hideous an_ncomfortable apparel found first one and then the other in the ascendency.
  • As the tribe continued their slow way through the forest after the passing o_abor, Tarzan's head was filled with his great scheme for slaying his enemy, and for many days thereafter he thought of little else.
  • On this day, however, he presently had other and more immediate interests t_ttract his attention.
  • Suddenly it became as midnight; the noises of the jungle ceased; the tree_tood motionless as though in paralyzed expectancy of some great and imminen_isaster. All nature waited—but not for long.
  • Faintly, from a distance, came a low, sad moaning. Nearer and nearer i_pproached, mounting louder and louder in volume.
  • The great trees bent in unison as though pressed earthward by a mighty hand.
  • Farther and farther toward the ground they inclined, and still there was n_ound save the deep and awesome moaning of the wind.
  • Then, suddenly, the jungle giants whipped back, lashing their mighty tops i_ngry and deafening protest. A vivid and blinding light flashed from th_hirling, inky clouds above. The deep cannonade of roaring thunder belche_orth its fearsome challenge. The deluge came—all hell broke loose upon th_ungle.
  • The tribe shivering from the cold rain, huddled at the bases of great trees.
  • The lightning, darting and flashing through the blackness, showed wildl_aving branches, whipping streamers and bending trunks.
  • Now and again some ancient patriarch of the woods, rent by a flashing bolt, would crash in a thousand pieces among the surrounding trees, carrying dow_umberless branches and many smaller neighbors to add to the tangled confusio_f the tropical jungle.
  • Branches, great and small, torn away by the ferocity of the tornado, hurtle_hrough the wildly waving verdure, carrying death and destruction to countles_nhappy denizens of the thickly peopled world below.
  • For hours the fury of the storm continued without surcease, and still th_ribe huddled close in shivering fear. In constant danger from falling trunk_nd branches and paralyzed by the vivid flashing of lightning and th_ellowing of thunder they crouched in pitiful misery until the storm passed.
  • The end was as sudden as the beginning. The wind ceased, the sun shon_orth—nature smiled once more.
  • The dripping leaves and branches, and the moist petals of gorgeous flower_listened in the splendor of the returning day. And, so—as Nature forgot, he_hildren forgot also. Busy life went on as it had been before the darkness an_he fright.
  • But to Tarzan a dawning light had come to explain the mystery of CLOTHES. Ho_nug he would have been beneath the heavy coat of Sabor! And so was added _urther incentive to the adventure.
  • For several months the tribe hovered near the beach where stood Tarzan'_abin, and his studies took up the greater portion of his time, but alway_hen journeying through the forest he kept his rope in readiness, and man_ere the smaller animals that fell into the snare of the quick thrown noose.
  • Once it fell about the short neck of Horta, the boar, and his mad lunge fo_reedom toppled Tarzan from the overhanging limb where he had lain in wait an_rom whence he had launched his sinuous coil.
  • The mighty tusker turned at the sound of his falling body, and, seeing onl_he easy prey of a young ape, he lowered his head and charged madly at th_urprised youth.
  • Tarzan, happily, was uninjured by the fall, alighting catlike upon all four_ar outspread to take up the shock. He was on his feet in an instant and, leaping with the agility of the monkey he was, he gained the safety of a lo_imb as Horta, the boar, rushed futilely beneath.
  • Thus it was that Tarzan learned by experience the limitations as well as th_ossibilities of his strange weapon.
  • He lost a long rope on this occasion, but he knew that had it been Sabor wh_ad thus dragged him from his perch the outcome might have been ver_ifferent, for he would have lost his life, doubtless, into the bargain.
  • It took him many days to braid a new rope, but when, finally, it was done h_ent forth purposely to hunt, and lie in wait among the dense foliage of _reat branch right above the well-beaten trail that led to water.
  • Several small animals passed unharmed beneath him. He did not want suc_nsignificant game. It would take a strong animal to test the efficacy of hi_ew scheme.
  • At last came she whom Tarzan sought, with lithe sinews rolling beneat_himmering hide; fat and glossy came Sabor, the lioness.
  • Her great padded feet fell soft and noiseless on the narrow trail. Her hea_as high in ever alert attention; her long tail moved slowly in sinuous an_raceful undulations.
  • Nearer and nearer she came to where Tarzan of the Apes crouched upon his limb, the coils of his long rope poised ready in his hand.
  • Like a thing of bronze, motionless as death, sat Tarzan. Sabor passed beneath.
  • One stride beyond she took—a second, a third, and then the silent coil sho_ut above her.
  • For an instant the spreading noose hung above her head like a great snake, an_hen, as she looked upward to detect the origin of the swishing sound of th_ope, it settled about her neck. With a quick jerk Tarzan snapped the noos_ight about the glossy throat, and then he dropped the rope and clung to hi_upport with both hands.
  • Sabor was trapped.
  • With a bound the startled beast turned into the jungle, but Tarzan was not t_ose another rope through the same cause as the first. He had learned fro_xperience. The lioness had taken but half her second bound when she felt th_ope tighten about her neck; her body turned completely over in the air an_he fell with a heavy crash upon her back. Tarzan had fastened the end of th_ope securely to the trunk of the great tree on which he sat.
  • Thus far his plan had worked to perfection, but when he grasped the rope, bracing himself behind a crotch of two mighty branches, he found that draggin_he mighty, struggling, clawing, biting, screaming mass of iron-muscled fur_p to the tree and hanging her was a very different proposition.
  • The weight of old Sabor was immense, and when she braced her huge paws nothin_ess than Tantor, the elephant, himself, could have budged her.
  • The lioness was now back in the path where she could see the author of th_ndignity which had been placed upon her. Screaming with rage she suddenl_harged, leaping high into the air toward Tarzan, but when her huge bod_truck the limb on which Tarzan had been, Tarzan was no longer there.
  • Instead he perched lightly upon a smaller branch twenty feet above the ragin_aptive. For a moment Sabor hung half across the branch, while Tarzan mocked, and hurled twigs and branches at her unprotected face.
  • Presently the beast dropped to the earth again and Tarzan came quickly t_eize the rope, but Sabor had now found that it was only a slender cord tha_eld her, and grasping it in her huge jaws severed it before Tarzan coul_ighten the strangling noose a second time.
  • Tarzan was much hurt. His well-laid plan had come to naught, so he sat ther_creaming at the roaring creature beneath him and making mocking grimaces a_t.
  • Sabor paced back and forth beneath the tree for hours; four times she crouche_nd sprang at the dancing sprite above her, but might as well have clutched a_he illusive wind that murmured through the tree tops.
  • At last Tarzan tired of the sport, and with a parting roar of challenge and _ell-aimed ripe fruit that spread soft and sticky over the snarling face o_is enemy, he swung rapidly through the trees, a hundred feet above th_round, and in a short time was among the members of his tribe.
  • Here he recounted the details of his adventure, with swelling chest and s_onsiderable swagger that he quite impressed even his bitterest enemies, whil_ala fairly danced for joy and pride.