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.